What are ya gonna say about a wine like this? Don’t know who made it, pretty sure the label doesn’t exist, just a random sale close-out at a shop with an intriguing label. No-name 8YO Merlot from Santa Barbara County is a bit of a risk, no? RISK is my middle name.

Everything checks out, all the usual boxes. It’s Merlot, it’s well done, it’s spicy and full and not over-extracted or ripe. The nose definitely shows a little tertiary patina, wet leather and cigar, peat and sweat and cellar nuances over quite luscious black cherry and pastis mint. Nothing awkward AT ALL about it.

In the mouth, rich and full-flavored while still adhering to an un-extroverted style. The spice and funk translates well into the mouth, with a fruity core. I expected a bit of a ‘donut wine’–hollow in the center–a trademark of older Merlots, but this is lively and fresh while still rubbing all the woodsy dank loveliness into your pores. It’s a bit thin and light, but it does that dance start-to-finish, something I call *balance*. Peppery brilliance flows in late-middle and the tannins are impressive: not taking center-stage, merely drying out the finish while the fruit slowly fades. Chalky and dry in the final memories, I can’t really find any fault with this wine.

2012 MALLEA FOOD & WINE Merlot Happy Canyon Santa Barbara Co. 14.5

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