Section 4.23 of the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) wine law specifies that to use the name of a single grape variety on a wine label, the wine must contain 75% of that grape type. While some might call this a government “loophole” in varietal accuracy, I tend to believe it is recognition of the art of winemaking.
Even though he is not legally mandated, Jon Wehner, owner/winemaker at Chatham Vineyards, prefers to inform his customers what he selects to blend into his varietal wines. In the case of the 2011 Merlot, Wehner used 89% Merlot and 11% Petit Verdot. Alone, Petit Verdot can be a big tannic bomb with almost black color. By using a small percentage in this wine provides the vintage significant color and structural enhancement.
This Merlot presents in the glass deep, dark pigmentation. The nose includes the aromas of Bing cherry, licorice and plum. The sharper than anticipated attack includes subtle, silky tannins leading to a midpalate of plum, strawberry and a hint of rhubarb. The finish lingers nicely with undercurrents of tobacco and leather.
The unique balance in this wine leads me to pairing with Italian dishes like lasagna or Eggplant Parmesan. While drinking very nicely now, I do anticipate additional flavor integration on the midpalate and a possible extension of the finish with proper cellaring.
DRINK NOW – SUMMER 2015