Barge Right In

A historic producer–probably most known for Chaucer’s Mead–not popping up on the radar often–and that’s a shame, as the roster is packed with bargain goodies, including $40-$60 flagship reds and numerous 30-dollar Pinots. SCM is an absolute GEM on the Central Coast (though it’s not in the CC AVA), oft-forgotten by the bling-crowd for its offerings beyond Ridge and Mt. Eden, and over-looked by marketing much outside the general region. But *misses* are harder to find in these hills than any other area, and digging into the history is fascinating, resulting in many references to your hero-darlings of Napa and Sonoma. As I have often advised: Go into ANY wine-shop and the Merlots will be the oldest wines on the shelf, and I found a half-rack of these lurking dusty and un-noticed the other day and couldn’t resist. Not to mention: CHEAP. I love Merlot–easily one of my favorite varieties–but they can be *troubling* in California with age–as many are not built for the long-run like right-bank versions.

Beautiful even ruby with appropriate sediment and not a trace of brick at the bright, clear rim. Rich, thick cherry fruit fills the nose, wavering behind a burnt-tire woodiness which will probably turn many off–but only the people looking for “Clean, fruit-driven wines” on a back label and the sugar-addled *Drink what you like* crowd. I see it as added personality and character, adding interest and dimension to the texture. A generous decant evened it out to express delicious vanilla and polished spice from behind. A more solid-smelling red wine would be hard to find.

Tasting it unleashes the brash little sister of afore-mentioned toasty herbaceousness onto the palate–but only after sweet bruised pomegranate and dripping blackberry make their introductions. It makes for a bitter-briary welcome-mat unexpected in most CA merlots fast approaching 10. First pours showed classic varietal *donut wine* hollowness in the middle, but I think the air has plumped this region up to full-fruitiness. Tannins are intensely vegetal, buckling the fruit slightly and creating another expressive rift which will turn off many. I think it has structure for another 5 and fruit for another 10–NOT something a lot of new-world versions of this amazing variety can survive. And wait til you see the price…

2013 BARGETTO Merlot Regan Vyd Santa Cruz Mountains 14.3

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