Wednesday, January 21, 2015

"It's Just Wine, Drink It"

Every time I open a bottle of wine, I want it to the best I've ever had.  With the pop of each cork, hope rises anew.

Of course, it doesn't always work out that way.  Some bottles simply don't overwhelm.  It's alright with me when they don't, though.  People sometimes have ways of making themselves likable despite an absence of dazzling good looks, perfect hair or expensive clothes - relying instead on charisma.  Charles and Charles Merlot reminds me of a twist on that old blind date scenario: "Is she pretty?" "She's got a great personality."

With a lead-in like that, you may expect that I think this red is the kind which makes people say, "I am not drinking any @%$#ing Merlot!"  It's really not, but I had a hard time coming around to it.  It's a blind date wine.  "Does it taste good?"  "It's got a great personality."

Charles & Charles is a collaboration between winemaker Charles Smith and wine importer Charles Bieler.  Smith is a big believer in iconic labels - he was inspired by the Ralph Steadman drawings on early Bonny Doon labels - and he targets his marketing directly to the people who buy his wines.

The back label on the C&C Merlot features both Charleses having a brief, static conversation in front of an abstract American flag, Bieler speaking and Smith replying in each panel.  Different bottles have different panels on them.  "Party on, Charles." "Party on, Charles."  "Dude, you rock." "No, you rock."  "Washington Merlot is..." "My bag, man." "Dude, looks like you're posing for a mug shot." "I am."  "Are you crying?" "I love a Merlot, man. Tears of joy."  "Pairs well with." "Aah man, just drink it."  It was the final response - emblazoned on their website - that finally won me over.  I just drank it.  I liked it.

Charles and Charles teamed up with Napa Valley-based Trinchero Family Estates, which makes their line the first Washington state wines for the group.  There were 7,000 cases of Merlot made, and they are exclusively available through Whole Foods Market for about $14.

The wine is a blend of 78% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot and 2% Malbec from the Wahluke Slope AVA on the east side of the Columbia River, a warm climate site.  It is aged ten months in French oak, 40% of which was new.

The 2013 Charles and Charles Merlot shows as a medium-dark ruby color in the glass.  The nose is quite nice, bringing plenty of blackberries, blueberries and toasty oak notes with sage and smoke just peeking through.  There is maybe a little too much oak peeking through - possibly the preponderance of new oak used in aging is the reason for that.   On the palate, ripe plums and oak lead the way, with tons of oak spice jumping for joy on my taste buds.  It seems at first sip a fairly uninspired wine, with the oak effect overplayed.  On the second and third nights it was open, it did seem to settle down a bit and become much more enjoyable.  The wine is full-bodied and finishes spicy.

As far as a lifetime commitment goes, I can’t do that.  But if we’re just talking about being friends, I’m good with it.  The popping of the cork, in this case, did not change my world.  It did, however, gain me a new friend.

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