The 181 Merlot clone has thrived in the red clay soil of Bordeaux's Pomerol region. Now we find that the red clay soil of the Clay Station Vineyard in Lodi is producing some excellent Merlot from that clone. Rich in minerals that have drained from the Sierras, Lodi's soil is said to be near-perfect for growing this transplant.
On a Saturday afternoon visit to The Den on L.A.'s Sunset Boulevard, I tried a glass to see what all the fuss was about. It's about a luscious nose, an explosive palate and an earthy quality that would have Merlot-hater Miles Raymond taking a second sip.
Big black cherry flavors abound, along with some nice smokey vanilla and cedarbox notes and a hint or two of cassis. The backbone is great and the finish lingers long. It's got a lot going for it, especially considering the price tag is barely over $10 a bottle in some places.
Winemaker: 181 Wine Cellars
Appellation: California > Central Valley > Lodi
Vineyard: Clay Station
Acquisition disclaimer: Purchased by the author, by the glass