The Austin Chronicle

Weekend Wine

By Wes Marshall, September 22, 2018, 8:30am, On the Range

Merlot gets such a bad rap. Lots of folks blame the movie Sideways for its reputation, but wine snobs had been turning their noses up at California Merlots long before that.

The problem, they sniffed, giving the impression that they were the sole repositories of the truth about wine, was that it was too jammy, too unctuous, too one-dimensional. Too bad for them.


Because this is a glorious grape that in the right winemaker’s hands can produce some of the world’s greatest red wines. Unfortunately, some of these wines can cost a fair amount of money. Petrus is commonly called the best Merlot made, and at an average of $3,000-$4,000 a bottle, it had better be pretty darn good. My personal choices for an expensive Merlot come mostly from the U.S. – wines like Duckhorn Merlot Three Palms Napa ($100), Leonetti Merlot Walla Walla Valley ($90), or Pahlmeyer Merlot Napa ($80).

But the real bargains are double-sized because the winemakers know how to make great wine at a price point, and Merlot is cheap for them to buy. So check out these two wines. The Hope Family loves our hometown so much they named their son Austin! (Just kidding, though he does spend a lot of quality time here, especially when there’s some interesting music happening.) Their Merlot ($15) is perfect wine for some sliced la Barbecue brisket. Washington’s Walla Walla is one of the most fascinating wine areas in the world. Waterbrook Winery is one of their oldest, plus they also just happen to make interesting, reasonably-priced wines across the board. They make a really good Merlot for just $10, and it ranks very high on the all-important hamburger wine scale.

Regular readers might notice I’ve been emphasizing Merlot lately and the reason is simple. While demand is low, price will follow. So enjoy it while you can. Sooner or later, the world will again catch on to its charms. Plus, October just happens to be Merlot Month in the U.S., so buy early and start celebrating soon!

Copyright © 2021 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.