Tag Archives: Merlot

A Colorado Merlot That Is Truly Luscious!

Creekside Cellars 2012 Merlot

Creekside Merlot 2012

Creekside Merlot 2012

At last, a Colorado Merlot that is truly luscious.  Rose and sweet oak is on the nose and palate. A mix of chocolate and caramel enriches the deep flavors. Loads of dark berries with flavors shot through with leather and earth.  Blackberry is dominant with the light edge of black currant also noticeable.   Beautifully balanced with supple acids and a long-lasting finish, this wine is top tier Merlot.

Merlot is spotty in Colorado, but as the vines age and vineyard techniques are refined, we are likely to see some beauties like this one.  The quantities are limited, so get this wine while you can.  I had it with lamb chops and the experience was truly memorable.  Although the above comments are a snapshot it should be important to you that the wine, when exposed to oxygen (which works its wonders and its destruction) actually holds up very well after days of being pumped, while other wines would have shown decay.

I recommend this wine for a great experience.

Rating: 92

Emotional rating:  Memorable!

Available at the winery.

Colorado’s Garett Estate — Unusual Red Blend: “Pheasant Run Red, 2012”

Garett Estate Winery’s Pheasant Run Red, 2012.

Garrett - Pheasant Run Red 2012

Garrett – Pheasant Run Red 2012

A blend of Syrah and Merlot is not found in every winery.  There are indications that in the very early days of Bordeaux, wines from upriver and from the Rhone (Syrah) was blended with the Bordeaux varietals.  Hence this blend is not new.  Many Cabernet Sauvignons in the New World are blended today with Syrah and in most cases with other varieties as well.  Merlot does not feature as often with Syrah and certainly not as a common blend.  Therefore, this is a wine to experience since the flavors of the two grapes combine to produce a dark fruit and evident oak background in which the blend of flavors is the dominant effect.  The Merlot mellows the characteristics of the Syrah.

It is an everyday, quaffable wine and, for the price, a good buy — especially if you like a red that reminds you of the heavy rustic variety of wine.  This wine will stain your teeth!  Little acid shows up initially, but it comes through on the finish giving you a final cleansing effect that is so good when matching it with rich meats.  A background of dark fruit climaxes in a medium acid finish that is fresh and mouthwatering.  Warm tones, like chords in a closely knit harmony, reflect the warmth of the site on which the grapes are grown.  A commendable table wine.

Rating: 85

Emotional rating:  A warm winter wine that leaves a happy wallet.

Available:  Distributed in Colorado.

Tamarack Cellars Has a “Harmonious” 2012 Cab Sauv

Tamarack Cellars 2012 Cab Sauf

Tamarack Cellars 2012 Cab Sauf

Tamarack Cellars Cab Sauv 2012

This wine exhibits, as do many varietal expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon, the harmony of flavors that this grape can achieve in the finished wine and in blending it with many other grapes.  Tamarack Cellars has chosen a traditional blend of grapes (86% is Cab Sauv, 8% is Cabernet Franc, and 6% is Merlot).  Bordeaux has it right when it blends Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and other grapes with Cabernet Sauvignon.  In fact, the addition of Syrah was a blend that was first used in the early days of Bordeaux.

Cabernet has backbone and muscle but lacks gentleness until age has mellowed its punch.  There is a richness in the mid palate of Merlot that seems to make Cab rounder and smoother, and it does the job in this Tamarack blend.  There is also a similarity with Cabernet Franc that can, in leaner years, add to Cab’s herbaceousness, but when harvested fully ripe, can blend and enrich Cabernet’s offering of blackcurrant as it seems to do in this example.

The winemakers have gone to great measures to preserve the individuality of each vineyard and variety to blend without first muddying the pool.  The result is a harmonious blend of flavors and texture that is to be celebrated in this wine.

The wine needs more age to show at its best.  Somewhat closed, a bit of breathing can help.  On the nose is the richness of vanilla, a hint of smoke at first, and fruit flavors that have married into a harmonious and glorious whole.  It is very complex and appealingly smooth, with fine but strong tannins that should marry more as it ages.  There is a little minerality and the acid is in beautiful balance to the point of it not being noticeable except for its mouth watering effect.  To me, this is acid balance in perfection.

Because of its harmony, this is a wine that does not stand up tall and say, “This is who I am,” but rather delivers a dose of complex pleasure and velvety softness that creeps up on you and creates emotions that are all to do with its soothing melody and its contrasting rich, complex power.

Rating:  91

Emotional rating:  Loads of soft-hued dark fruit and oak lusciousness.  The same emotions as when you fall into a feather pillow, but one well stuffed and firm as well as soft.

Available: from the winery.  Also try wine.com and/or wine searcher.com.

Creekside Cellars Merlot 2011

Creekside 2011 MerlotIn Colorado Merlot is a variety that produces reasonably well and can, in ideal spots, rise to very acceptable levels of quality.  Like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot is most likely to have a common parent: Cabernet Franc.  No wonder they blend so harmoniously to better each other in either structure or soft lush fruit.  Both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot sport a similar fruit profile: blackberry, blackcurrant, plum, and dark cherry form the common fruit expectation from both wines.  Whereas Cab is firmer and more tannic, Merlot excels with its lush, juicy fruit and its softer texture.  “Cabernet Sauvignon without the bite” is the old distinguishing adage.  Merlot favors clay soils and, hence, ideal spots should offer more of what it likes.

This offering from Creekside Cellars is one of the leading Merlots in Colorado. The oak treatment is now coming into its own together with an appealing lush and velvety mouthfeel.  Typical dark fruit and tannins that are more bold than many Californian examples, together with its own hint of minerality, signal the high altitude, intense sunlight and cool nights.  The acid is firm and this wine demonstrates what Colorado Merlot can be.

Serve at 65 degrees.  A debut in the 50’s will hide the fullness of its fruit.

Rating: a solid 89

Emotional rating hinges on your appreciation of fine tannins that are noticeable and a Merlot that shows finesse with a lush character.  For me, it is an emotionally wonderful wine that arrives at my 94 appreciation level.  Tannins, lushness, and finesse — that’s it in a nutshell.  Get it while you can.


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Harvest Fest at Colorado’s Holy Cross Abbey Winery

The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey sits on the property of the Holy Cross Abbey in Cañon

Blessing of the Harvest at Holy Cross Abbey Winery Harvest Fest

Blessing of the Harvest at Holy Cross Abbey Winery Harvest Fest

City, Colorado.  A history of winemaking by the Abbey has now turned into a modern winery (owned by Larry Oddo) that honors the traditions of the past.  Each Harvest Fest is blessed by a Father of the Roman Catholic Church and this year’s event set a record at approximately 4000 in attendance for the two-day event.

This was a great opportunity to experience the way Colorado celebrates the vine.  A surprise (and “truly Colorado”) was the churning of home made ice cream, powered by a donkey on a “treadmill.”


This donkey is making real homemade ice cream!

This donkey is making real homemade ice cream!

The winery’s  new winemaker, Jeff Stultz, produced 2011 Revelation that won “Best New World Generic Proprietary Red Wine” in March of 2014 at the Jerry Mead International competition.

I tasted a vertical of their Cabernet Sauvignons and could clearly see the skill and experience of the winemaking.  Here are the notes from the evaluations of the current reds created by their current winemaker, Jeff Stultz.

Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, 2012  A strong blackcurrant aroma, with light herbal edges and underlined with blackberry, greets you boldly.  The herbaceousness for which Cabernet is known is controlled.  While still juicy and fresh, the wine’s attack is very much like a young Bordeaux.  Its medium weight on the palate is supported by a strong structure.  The wine should develop more complexity as it ages, although it would dress a grilled steak very well as it is.  This is a wine to lay down for 2-3 years with a longevity of 10 or more, depending on how it develops.  It should reward wonderfully.  Allow it to breathe in the glass for an hour to smooth its power a little.  The wine is a quality wine with a food friendly medium finish.

A small portion of the 2014  record crowd at the Harvest Festival at The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey

A small portion of the 2014 record crowd at the Harvest Festival at The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey

Syrah, 2012:  Bluish red in color (sporting its youth), this Syrah is abundant with raspberry and pepper notes on the nose that lead to even more spice on the palate.  Notice that the fruit does not display its full power on the nose but increases through the palate to the finish like a grand crescendo.  The acids are racy and razor edged and the bite remains to the end for a real cleansing effect.

Cabernet Franc, 2012:  Beautifully graduated from the core to the rim with a youthful red color.  Dark fruits flood the aroma and a brightness gives indication of a lively wine.  A sleek balanced palate, medium in weight, is a platform for the brightness and blackness of the blackcurrant and raspberry fruit.  This is another excellent wine and it finishes with a balance of acid, fruit and tannin that leave you feeling like “more.”  Also, it displays a medium length on the finish with acid that refreshes but does not bite.  This is a very good Colorado expression of the grape.  Colorado is defining its expression of Cabernet Franc as having more of the richness of the new world, but still with hints of the stoniness of the soils in which it is grown.  Science can make no connection between soil and the flavors of the grape, but tasters can tell.  See if you can get hints of stone and dry rock.

Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012:  Deep ruby, the nose displays more of the fruit than the reserve wine and less of the herbs.  In fact, they are almost hidden.  No indication of VA tingles in your nose and you are quickly introduced to a rich mouthful of fruit.  The tannins are a little more pronounced than the reserve wine, but fine and mainly oak derived.  This is a good buy.  There is plenty of acid to make it a food-friendly wine and to suggest, like the reserve, that it can do with a year or more maturing in the bottle for even more rewarding flavors.

Merlot Reserve, 2012:   This is a Merlot worthy of a close examination.  Deep ruby and with acids that expand in the mouth, its strong tannins for a Merlot will please the Cab drinkers and its black fruit, led by blackberry, blackcurrant, and plum notes, create an aroma and palate that is plush.  The plum enriches the sensual delight that Merlot is expected to provide.  Silky sensations smooth out a strong structure.  This is another wine that can do with a little time and would love some food.  It is powerful for a Merlot and should enhance a steak meal and entertain the big and bold wine drinker.

Ratings:  All wines would rate in the 86-90 range.

Emotional rating:  Very good — will improve with age as the tertiary flavors develop.


You’ll find many great Colorado wines described in my book, “Experiencing Colorado Wine,” and you’ll find the description of the pairing of several of them with a great recipes by great Colorado chefs.

GET YOUR COPY  at SQUARE MARKET!Experiencing Colorado Red Print Ready

Book entertains, educates, and entices readers to experience Colorado wine