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Nothing Sideways About Merlot

By | November 30, 2016
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Photo courtesy of NABU Wines

A moment most people remember from the 2004 movie Sideways is Miles, played by Paul Giamatti, screaming, “I’m not drinking any [obscene adjective] Merlot!”

The clever irony is that his prized possession is a 1961 Château Cheval Blanc—a Premier Grand Cru Merlot-based Bordeaux. The downside of the joke is what some in the wine industry call the “Sideways Effect”: sales of the varietal plummeted.

Which is a shame. While some people may take a line from a movie and run with it, Merlot has never been dismissed by anyone who appreciates, makes or drinks great wine.

Merlot, whose name comes from the French for “little blackbird,” is a characteristically soft, elegant and easy-to-drink wine.

Take, for example, the 2013 Merlot from NABU Wines in Westlake Village, which is expected to complete its tasting room expansion in early 2017 to accommodate live music and events, and to carve out space to produce wines from crush to bottle.

NABU’s name reflects the fact that they source fruit from the Napa Valley and the Malibu Coast, says Greg Barnett, NABU president and partner. The 2013 Merlot is made from grapes grown at St. Helena’s Benessere Vineyards.

“When we initially made our 2013 Merlot we were thinking about just blending it with our Cabernet,” Barnett says. “But after 18 months we really felt this Merlot was pretty special and bottled a 100% Merlot.”

Aged in new French oak for 24 months, the wine imparts red fruit, spices and berries on the nose, leading to a silky texture with caramel, plum and smoke on the palate.

Typical of California Merlots, this one is perfectly lovely to sip on its own but will also pair nicely with anything hearty—from lasagna Bolognese to a perfectly seared steak.

“This Merlot is like a black puma,” says Barnett. “Stealthily stalking through the night—smooth, quiet and poised.”

—Amy Madsen

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