On those rare occasions when not drinking brilliantly aged clarets, I can’t help but search for wines within my budget. Today, real fun is found in Merlot from Napa, Mendocino and Sonoma. Following the bashing from the Pinot Movie, it was hard to find the top-rate Merlots in restaurant by-the-glass offerings as restaurant managers shied away from the controversy.
This would be a good point to differentiate between inexpensive “banquet wine” Merlot and the artisan stuff. Yesterday I tasted Souverain’s 2006 Sonoma bottling with a number of restaurateurs and all agreed it to have fantastic depth and finish… I don’t think you’ll often find this level of “fit & finish” under twenty dollars today (in a store), but the range of good 2006 Northern Californian Merlots that are hand-made and age-worthy is on the par of any of the world’s great varietals (read Cab & Syrah/Shiraz) and has a strong price advantage in many cases. It's the classic economic formula of supply & demand...take advantage of it while you can.