Thursday, December 9, 2010


Rodney Strong Merlot

If you live in Los Angeles, it's just a natural thing to go old-school Hollywood every now and then.  Musso and Frank Grill on Hollywood Boulevard - right in the thick of the touristy T-shirt shops, bars and leather-clad runaways - is about as old-school as Hollywood gets anymore.

A black and white Humphrey Bogart could sit in one of the red naugahyde booths and appear to be right at home.  The wait staff would huddle around the cash register drawing straws to determine who had to go and tell him he couldn't smoke in there anymore.

They are so old-school at Musso and Frank, the waiters dress like parking valets, sporting red vests and bow-ties.  They even have Raymond Burr wine available by the bottle.

I only wanted a glass, so I opted for a California classic from further north. Rodney Strong first planted Merlot in the Alexander Valley in 1970.  According to their website,
"Today we farm over 100 acres in the Alexander Valley and the northern portion of the Russian River Valley.  Together, these areas display the bright, red fruit character of the Russian River with the deep dark fruit flavors and mature tannins of the warmer Alexander Valley."

The Rodney Strong Merlot is a deep, dark ruby color with a purple rim.  The nose is fragrant with black cherry, blackberry and smokey cedar.  On the palate there's an earthy blueberry flavor draped in a wonderfully smokey element.  It's fairly brambly, too.  The effect of the small oak barrels in which the wine is aged is apparent, but in just the right measure.  The finish is lengthy and lip-smacking on this well-balanced wine.  The firm tannins are very manageable.  I paid $8.50 for a good-sized pour, and it will probably stand as the bargain of the week.

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