Now, yes, Merlot has been battered about by the Hollywood likes of Sideways and bad examples of the glass. And, because it had been at least five years since I traded in my last glass of Merlot for Zinfandels, Francs, Barbarescos, and anything found in the Rhone, I also laughed knowingly along with the rest of the Northern California audience as Paul Giamatti's character, Miles, slagged off on the once-popular wine.
It wasn't even that I agreed with what his character, Miles, said about Merlot, it's that I had long left what I considered a cloyingly sweet and flat red for rougher cut pastures and vines. Certain Merlots were shuddering reminders of my White Zinfandel-tinted youth, and I knew that my palette had grown up and was guiding me to richer and more complex climes.
However, last year I went to a traveling seminar sponsored by Swanson Vineyards called "Merlot Fights Back." Not only did I get reintroduced to Merlot and reminded just how good that beleaguered grape can be, but I learned that the special bottle of '61 Cheval Blanc Miles had been saving was a 50/50 blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot. That's right, fifty percent "fucking Merlot." However, I still wasn't buying it by the bottle or even ordering it in restaurants. Until now.