Bella Sera Merlot

Name: Bella Sera Merlot
Type: Red
Grape: Merlot
Origin: Italy
Year: 2005
Producer: Bella Sera USA
Price: $10.95

Made in Italy and then imported to California, this wine has a slightly more “old world” smell to it. It’s funny how after a while you start to recognize characteristics of regions and how different countries make wine differently. This isn’t anything new to a wine connoisseur, but it’s a transitional novelty to the individual nevertheless. Like when you get a few years out of college and realize one day that different beers taste really different and Busch Light actually isn’t good. So let’s call this wine the Busch Light of the old country. Cheap and accessible but not good. The flavor is thin and simple. First fruit then it turns to mild tannins then it turns into unnecessary calories. You can do better.

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Twisted Lot Merlot

Name: Twisted Lot Merlot
Type: Red
Grape: Merlot
Origin: U.S. – California
Year: 2005
Producer: Twisted Wine Cellars
Price: $6.50

Deep in color and smells of a chocolate-covered cherry. It starts out tasting like very little but then a distinct blueberry flavor takes over. There is a harsh flavor on the short finish that I’m not fond of. It’s a standard cheap Merlot, no more and no less.

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Georges Duboeuf Merlot (2004)

Name: Georges Duboeuf Merlot
Type: Red
Grape: Merlot
Origin: France
Year: 2004
Producer: Georges Duboeuf
Price: $6.00

Deep color and an aroma that reminds me more of Shiraz. It is peppery with dark, jammy fruit scents. The flavor is dry with a little fruit but predominantly earthy, woodsy character. The finish is medium. Not bad for a cheap red wine, but I wouldn’t have pegged it as a Merlot.

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Rabbit Ridge Merlot

Name: Rabbit Ridge Merlot
Type: Red
Grape: Merlot
Origin: U.S. – California
Year: 2003
Producer: Rabbit Ridge Vineyards
Price: $9.99

Another wine that I bought based on the looks of the label. I have a pet rabbit so, you know, I bought this wine with a rabbit on the label. It is a “Barrel Cuvee” which sounds kinda fancy. Cuvee is a French word that basically means “blend.” So, here we have a bunch of Merlot from different batches poured into a barrel and this is a bottle of that mix. Sounds less fancy now, eh? Sounds more like that party we used to have when I was in college where you take whatever liquor you have and dump it into a tub with fruit. In any case, this Merlot has a color that is close to brick. Smells earthy and with a bit of that oak aroma that it must have picked up from the barrel. The flavor is nice at first but a little off balance. The jammy fruit is a little overwhelmed by a spike of tartness near the short-ish finish. Decent overall though.

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Norma Jeanne Merlot

Name: Norma Jeanne Merlot
Type: Red
Grape: Merlot
Origin: U.S. – California
Year: 2005
Producer: Nova Wines
Price: $14.99

This bottle has an “early years” picture of Marilyn Monroe on the label so I kept it on the shelf for quite a while just for the appearance of it. This is supposed to signify the young Merlot that is in the bottle. Overall, I think the outside of the bottle is better than the contents but it certainly has its charms. It is light in color for a Merlot and a potent cherry aroma. The flavor is mild and smooth, with a berry taste followed by tartness and a hint of tannins.

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Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot

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Name: Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot
Type: Red
Grape: Merlot
Origin: U.S. – California
Year: 2003
Producer: Columbia Crest Winery
Price: $9.99

Robust aroma of berries, this stuff smells great. The flavor is great too, nice and round with soft fruit up front and a very subtle tannic structure before the medium finish. The Wine Spectator rated this very highly and I agree, for the price this can’t be beat. I ran out and bought a whole case, so I’m naming it a Cheap Thrill.

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Pepperwood Grove Merlot

Name: Pepperwood Grove Merlot
Type: Red
Grape: Merlot
Origin: U.S. – California
Year: 2004
Producer: Don Sebastiani & Sons
Price: $5.48

I actually got hosed on the rebate on these wines because I threw out the other empty bottles. You have to peel off and send them the little stamps from the producer that are pasted on the bottles. This last one is a Merlot and is one year older in vintage than the others. It has a slightly purplish color and a strong aroma of oak. The flavor has some fruit, some soft tannins and a hint of heat on the finish. Not bad but perhaps my least favorite of the Pepperwood Grove bunch.

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Four Sisters Merlot

Name: Four Sisters Merlot
Type: Red
Grape: Merlot
Origin: Australia
Year: 2004
Producer: Four Sisters
Price: $10.99

Nice looking screw cap bottle and a berry-licious aroma with scents of baking spices. The flavor starts smooth and unassuming but then bursts open as it hits the back of your tongue. Fruit and a wild tartness are dominant with a bit of barely noticeable tannins and a finish that carries out that tartness for a while. A bold flavored and interesting Merlot. If you like Merlot for it’s easy-drinking nature, this may not be your favorite. But if you avoid Merlot because you prefer a bolder red, you need to try this one out.

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Smoking Loon Merlot

Name: Smoking Loon Merlot
Type: Red
Grape: Merlot
Origin: U.S. – California
Year: 2005
Producer: Smoking Loon Wine Company
Price: $8.99

I bought three different bottles by Smoking Loon and there was a rebate certificate on one of the bottles. The three bottles cost about $27 and they gave a $6 mail-in rebate around one of the bottle necks. It’s not a lot but it makes the cost only $7 a bottle instead of $9. They probably figure that no one will mail it in but they are messing with the wrong dude in this case. I sent it off before I even opened one of the bottles. This one has some dense, jammy aromas. The flavor is also pretty full-bodied with some tannins on the finish. It’s an interesting Merlot.

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Deakin Estate Merlot

Name: Deakin Estate
Type: Red
Grape: Merlot
Origin: Australia
Year: 2003
Producer: Deakin Estate
Price: $6.99

Smells like rubbing alcohol and doesn’t taste a lot better. It has some tacky tannins and is pretty off balance overall. Kind of a stanky aftertaste too. There are a hell of a lot better ways to spend your wine dollar in the Australian aisle.

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