Weekend Wine: Rock 'n' Roll Merlot

Merlot is cool again!

Charles Smith was a professional rock'n'roll roadie that graduated to management of a group called The Raveonettes. He was born and raised in the California wine country but wasn’t all that interested in wine until his career took him to Europe.

Charles Smith, winemaker (Photo Courtesy of the winery)

There, he discovered a taste for wine and an entrepreneur’s sense of adventure. He moved back to the Walla Walla, Washington wine area and started a small operation in 2001. By 2009, Food & Wine magazine had named him their winemaker of the year and five years later, the Wine Enthusiast also named him their winemaker of the year.

Smith has been smart enough to create wines at every cost level from his entry wines in the under $15 range up to his mammoth $150 Syrahs. I’d like to point you to one of his least expensive wines, The Velvet Devil Merlot ($14). Of course, ever since the movie Sideways vilified the varietal, Merlots have had a tough time getting much love from the wine-snob community. But the fact is, Merlot is a great grape that produces wines that pair perfectly with grilled foods on a Hill Country picnic. Smith’s version has a luscious feel, plummy aromas, and just the right amount of kick to pair with grilled corn, portabellas, or a juicy ribeye steak. Serve it just slightly cooler than an air-conditioned home, in the 60-65 degree range.

Velvet Devil Merlot is available at Twin Liquors, Specs, Total Wine, HEB, and many online outlets.

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Charles Smith, Merliot, Velvet Devil, Walla Walla


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