The grapes for the 2015 Dark Horse California Merlot are harvested before the Cabernet Sauvignon fruit, which the winery says is an unconventional move. The Merlot is blended with Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot and Dornfelder to help bring a bigger, bolder flavor profile. Dornfelder, by the way, is a grape created by German horticulturists and is used to beef up the red wines of that country. Aged in French oak, this Merlot's alcohol tips only 13.5% abv and the wine sells for around $10.
This wine comes on strong, with a nose of blackberry and anise, joined by lesser touches of smoke and leather. On the palate, watch out for those early tannins. They bite, but settle down considerably after the bottle's been open for awhile. Jammy dark fruit carries a ton of spice notes with it. Oak is noticeable, to be sure, but it's a sweet effect rather than a savory one. The wine is medium-dark ruby in color at the edges, blackening nearer the core.