We are on a roll with our Wine Clubs. I'm pretty sure the wine club has outlasted any book club we ever attempted. For our third event, we ventured into the reds. Red wine can be intimidating to folks because it has the perception of being an "adult" drink. While it may be dry and served at room temperature, it doesn't mean that all parties cannot find a red they love. Some are very fruit forward or even (gasp!) sweet.
Merlot is a great wine to jump into adulthood with. It is classified as a medium-bodied red wine, so it is not as bold and astringent as some other varietals (such as a Cabernet), and it has fruity notes that shine through. Specifically, it is has fruit notes of black cherry, raspberry and plum. Merlots are usually aged in oak barrels so you can get notes of vanilla, cedar, or cloves as well.
We started off the party with food and a spritzer of sorts, per usual. We made our spritzer by mixing a bottle of Duplin's White Sangria (a super duper duper sweet Muscadine) and a bottle of Trader Joe's Blood Orange Italian Soda topped with fresh lime juice. Talk about yummy! Flatbreads were also the star of the show food-wise for this wine club. We created three different versions of a flatbread: a classic margherita; a mozzarella, salami, and spinach pizza; and then a sweet one with honey, Brie, and apples. The margherita paired especially well with the Merlot.
Let's get to the juice of the matter now, the wine. One word of wisdom to any deciding to host a wine party: make sure you take notes of the wine yourself. We printed out nice sheets for everyone else, but in the hubbub we didn't take notes on the wines ourselves. Six Merlots tend to run together.
1. RagApple Lassie Vineyards: This Merlot was amazing on the nose, but at the taste seemed to have a higher tannin level than one would expect. It did have a nice long finish.
2. Douglas Vineyards: A good option for one wanting an easy-drinking, fruit-forward, young wine.
3. Shelton Vineyards: You could tell this Merlot had been aged for a bit because the oak notes really shone through. I thought it was a fantastic wine, while others were put off by the oakiness.
4. Childress Vineyards: A classic Merlot that gave a great balance of fruit notes with oak flavors to give happiness in a glass.
5. RayLen Vineyards: If you want a Merlot with little bite, but that also goes down like velvet, this is the one for you.
6. Grove Vineyards: Compared to some of the others, this one fell a little short, but it was definitely drinkable. It was a little harsh, but had some nice plum flavors.
The one lesson we learned with the Merlots was that the fan favorites were the larger NC wineries: Childress, Shelton, and RayLen. Feel free to infer what you want from that, but maybe there is a reason they have made it big!
Stay tuned for the next Wine Club!