Celebrating Merlot Month on WPTV Channel 5

October is officially Merlot Month (aka #MerlotMe on Twitter) which celebrates the long awaited comeback of this most maligned grape variety. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to talk about this happy occasion recently with John Favole and the team at WPTV Channel 5.

While everyone likes to blame the 2004 movie Sideways for Merlot's vinous demise, Miles' rant was just the final nail in the grape's coffin at the time. The truth is, its popularity had been declining for awhile. At the height of Merlot's fame, demand was so great some growers were pulling up other, less-profitable vines in order to make room for more of it. This meant planting Merlot vines in less than optimal sites, resulting in the mass production of poor quality wine.

Unfortunately, it became more about quantity than quality.

Now, after almost a decade of vinous obscurity, it's the quality vineyards tended by the true Merlot experts that mostly remain. But what's so great about Merlot anyway and WHY are we celebrating it with Merlot Month? For those who are newbies or just need a reminder, on the likeability scale, Merlot rates pretty high!


Known for its plush, lush notes of cherry, plum and chocolate and soft, supple tannins...frankly, what's NOT to like? It's inherent characteristics also make it approachable at a young age, unlike its vinous counterpoint Cabernet Sauvignon, a grape known for aggressive tannins and bold flavors that often need time in the bottle to soften. While both grapes make delicious varietal wines, the two also complement each other beautifully which is why they are often blended together.

While Merlot was officially "born" in France and is still the most widely planted grape in Bordeaux, wonderful examples of the wine can be found in many countries across the globe including Italy, Australia, Chile and the US. Each country imparts its own unique stamp on this grape which can be somewhat of a chameleon depending on where it's grown. In cooler climates, Merlot is known for exhibiting notes of black and blue fruit, minerals, licorice and herbs. Warmer climates accentuate the grape's fruitiness, highlighting cherry, candied berry, mocha, spice and soft, sweet tannins.

When it comes to food, due to its supple, fruity nature, Merlot pairs wonderfully with a variety of different dishes. Its hearty texture makes it perfect for serving with hard cheeses, cheeseburgers, stews, roasted chicken and steak. Those with a sweet tooth can also enjoy it with chocolate-based desserts that complement its lush, fruity tendencies.

I hope you enjoy #MerlotMonth and continue to enjoy this delicious grape all season long! Please check out my list of Merlot recommendations at a variety of different price points. If you'd like to watch the entire WPTV segment, or for more details on the featured wines, please scroll down for all the deets. Also, if there's a particular brand of Merlot you enjoy I'd love to hear about it in the Comments section below. Be sure to share your vinous exploits on Twitter using the hashtag #MerlotMe and check out what other wine lovers are drinking as well.


1.) Falesco Merlot Tellus, Umbria, Italy ($14): This stylish Italian gem is crafted from 100% Merlot and exhibits floral-infused aromas of lush dark fruit + spice. On the palate, mouth-filling flavors of wild strawberry, plum and spice are accompanied by delightfully grippy tannins and a lengthy finish.

2.) Mollydooker Merlot The Scooter, McLaren Vale, Australia ($25): This whimsical producer always delivers on flavor and this delightful, full-bodied Merlot is no exception! This wine is rife with aromas of black cherry and violet while on the palate, opulent notes of raspberry, strawberry and plum are accentuated by soft, supple tannins and hints of mocha and dried herbs.

3.) Peju Province Merlot, Napa Valley, CA ($45): As a longtime fan of Peju’s Cabernet Franc I was delightful to discover winemaker Sara Fowler’s Merlot years ago! This exceptional wine exhibits fragrant aromas of red fruit, spice + toasty oak while on the palate it delivers lush notes of pomegranate, cherry and blackberry are accentuated by hints of vanilla and spice.

4.) Duckhorn Merlot, Napa Valley, CA ($56): Merlot is truly the spirit grape of this world-renowned winery founded by Margaret and Dan Duckhorn in 1976. Their exceptional Napa Valley Merlot still WOWS today with alluring aromas of lush red fruit and spice followed on the palate by mouth-filling flavors of cherry, raspberry and cocoa that are accentuated by fine-grained tannins and hints of plum, blueberry and spice.

5.) Mt. Brave Merlot Mt. Veeder, Napa Valley, CA ($80): Winemaker Chris Carpenter is truly the mountain-grown Merlot whisperer, who treats each of his wines like a symphony of flavors. Happily, this stunner is no exception! Crafted from 80% Merlot and 20% Malbec grown on Mt. Veeder, this full-bodied wine displays fragrant aromas of spiced dark fruit, violets and mocha while on the palate, lush, plush flavors of ripe plum, blackberry and dark chocolate are accentuated by savory hints of black olive, earth and licorice.

6.) La Jota Merlot Howell Mountain, Napa, CA ($85): Chris Carpenter displays his talent for mountain fruit again in this truly elegant expression of Merlot from Napa’s Howell Mountain. This stunner seduces with complex aromas of dark fruit, cassis + espresso followed on the palate by opulent, layered notes of roast plum, blackberry compote and dried cherry complemented by ripe, round tannins and hints of star anise, black pepper and earth that carry through the long, lingering finish.

Stephanie Miskew
Stephanie Miskew