Fun little inexpensive wine with a whimsical label from Hedges Family. Buttered popcorn toastiness on initial pour, some dog-park barnyard with green-briar stemminess lurking behind–a welcome introduction and quite BDX-like. Plentiful air brings out much riper nuances: dark rich cherry, shades of earth and vegetal, touches of barrel beauty, caramel and brown sugar surrounding Christmas-spice and actually a bit of tertiary, reflecting on its ruddy garnet appearance. But everywhere it is clean and streamlined–including the growing funk in decanter and glass.
In the mouth, a nicely balanced but unassuming version of the variety–again feeling VERY Pomerol-satellite in tightness, mineral citrus and earthy angst. NOTHING like headily-concentrated, heavily-oaked Napa Valley examples, it is just an easy-drinking, food-friendly bottle probably not particularly appealing to the bling-bro crowd, but for those appreciating clean, well-mannered Merlot and ranking it up with the finest red varieties in the world, it screams near-perfection. Brilliantly acidified–chalk creeping in on the round berry–it goes pomegranate-brash and green-plum abrasive toward the finish, again solidifying it in the realm of right-bank offerings. In a line-up of offerings from said French AOC’s, I would be hard-pressed to call it New World. Grainy and palate-wiping in finish, the tannin lightly disturbs the measured fruit, the cellar-funk visits again, and everything fades away in classic food-friendly fashion.
Not a mind-bogglingly-good wine, nothing ethereal or earth-shaking, no OMG orgasmic layers of beautiful texture, it is just a flat-out GOOD WINE: not swinging for the bleachers, but also certainly not bunting for the short-stop scramble, embracing 20-30 dollar old-world versions with symbiotic aplomb and un-manipulated finesse. Quite possibly the finest example of European every-man’s wine I have seen produced on American soil.
2017 HEDGES FAMILY ESTATE ‘Le Merlot’ Merlot Columbia Valley Washington 13.5