#MerlotMe with Duckhorn Vineyards & L’Ecole N° 41

#MerlotMe Duckhorn L'Ecole N 41
One of my favorite varietals has a month all its own, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.  October is #MerlotMe month and my fellow Wine Pairing Weekend writers are going to share their favorite Merlots.  Be sure to check them out for more fun details on this wonderful varietal.


Merlot is wonderful grape varietal that needs to be explored.  It is a quiet varietal, understated and elegant, so when I learned about #MerlotMe I was all over it.  Merlot is coming out of the closet and coming out front and center for an entire month. It’s a month-long celebration of this wonderful noble grape.  So this October grab a few bottles and celebrate Merlotber.

With a beautiful name like Merlot(means Little Black Bird in French) you know the varietal is just as precious.  Merlot has flavors of juicy berries, exotic spice and cocoa powder.  It’s a wine that is smooth, elegant and soft.  A wonderful wine for autumn sipping, but because of its medium body it can be drunk year round and can be paired with almost any type of food. I love it with pastas, salads, turkey or even a big juicy steak.  Merlot is approachable, fleshy, juicy and simply put DELICIOUS.

We all know that the Sideways Effect had a detrimental impact on the sale of Merlot wines. Now thirteen years after the movie, Merlot lovers are in luck.   After the plummeting sales of Merlot, many winemakers switched to making more profitable Cabernet Sauvignon.  Which meant that the truly passionate Merlot producers stuck around.  It separated the good producers from the not so good, resulting in smaller but higher quality Merlots on the market.  Only those producers making exceptional wines with passion and zest were left.

Some of my favorite Merlots are from California and Washington state, though it is grown practically all around the globe.  I received numerous bottles of Merlot as samples and so more to come on the subject, but for today we are going to focus on two of my favorites, Duckhorn Vineyards from Napa Valley and L’Ecole N° 41 from Washington State.  Very coincidentally I had the opportunity to be a part of a seminar featuring these two fabulous producers.  Tasting them side by side was fun, educational and eye-opening.

Duckhorn Vineyards

Duckhorn Vineyards was founded by Dan and Margaret Duckhorn.  They have been deeply involved in making Napa Valley Merlot since 1976. Their Merlots are supple, generous and fruitful . The Duckhorns are deeply devoted to Merlot, and made Merlot at a time when Cabernet Sauvignon was King and even today Cabernet Sauvignon is more widely planted in Napa Valley.  Dan simply loved Merlot and so he strategically and thoughtfully decided he would make Merlot, and make it with great gusto.  Duckhorn’s Merlot greatness is primarily due to its prestigious site Three Palms, of which the first vintage was produced in 1978.

Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot 2015 (SRP $56)

Winemaker Renee Ary is looking to express Napa Valley through this wine.  This wine comes from several sites throughout valley.  The wine is truly a reflection of the vintage and the winemaker.  Winemaking is a balance of art and science and Renee embodies that philosophy perfectly as she is a double major in chemistry and art history.  Renee delivers a Merlot that has power and intensity and at the same time is graceful.  A signature wine of the Duckhorn label, it is widely available throughout the United States.  It is the most popular Merlot in the US at the moment in this price point.

Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot Three Palms Vineyards 2015 (SRP $98)

This wine is a portrait of a single site(the iconic Three Palms Vineyard).  This is a vineyard designated wine for which the first inaugural vintage was 1978.  With the exception of 1980, the wine has been made every year.  Three Palms  is a wine that can be put away and aged.  The Duckhorn’s became proud owners of Three Palms Vineyard in 2014 even though they have been producing the wine since 1978.  The 2015 comes off the heel of the 2014 vintage, which Wine Spectator named as their #1 Wine Of The Year.  2015 was an exceptional growing season imparting notes of cranberry, figs and cocoa. It has wonderfully smooth tannins and nice structured finish.  A must have Merlot to add to your cellar.

L’Ecole N° 41

L’Ecole N° 41 has had a long and fruitful relationship with Merlot . They are pioneers in their region as they were the third winery formed in Walla Walla. Merlot was their flagship wine and  was the first wine produced in 1983, which won a gold medal.  Jean and Baker Ferguson are the founders.  Both teachers, they had bought the old school-house(hence the name L’Ecole).  Now the family runs the winery and L’Ecole N° 41 is recognized as one of Washington State’s top producers of premium Merlot

L’Ecole N° 41 Walla Walla Valley Estate Merlot 2015 (SRP $36)

A ripe wine from a warm vintage.  It is a beautiful, rich, full-bodied Merlot.  The wine is made from two sites; the Seven Hills Vineyard and Ferguson Vineyards(highest point in Walla Walla). Ferguson’s high elevation provides natural acidity to this wine.  Nice notes of berries, nutmeg, cinnamon, mocha and coffee. The Ferguson Family is making exceptional artisan wines in the Walla Walla region.

L’Ecole N° 41 Columbia Valley Merlot 2015 (SRP $24)

The Columbia Valley Merlot is produced from prestigious vineyards throughout the region. Layered with enticing aromas of black cherry, violet, and plum, this full-bodied Merlot shows balanced layers of red fruit and cocoa on a seamless finish of fine-grained tannins. A beautiful solid Merlot for $24.

When drinking Merlot these descriptors should come to mind, savory, plum, tart, red berries, blueberries, orange zest, blackberries, blackcurrant, cedar, juniper, black pepper, clove, minerality, slate, cedar and sandalwood.  Sound delicious to you??  Then be sure to pick up some Merlot and enjoy during these cool months and into the holiday season.

Some more fantastic #MerlotMe articles:

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  1. These are definitely some wonderful wines!

  2. Appreciate all the background information. Thanks.

  3. Wow that must have been a great seminar! Haven’t tried much L’Ecole, but I’ve heard good things. Nice price points too! Cheer Rupal!

  4. Well, I didn’t know Merlot means “little black bird” in French – that’s a new learning. Great post, Rupal!

  5. Great gathering of wines, Rupal! What’s not to love about elegant Merlot?? Cheers!

  6. These wines totally nail it! So fun

  7. It still amazes me how much Sideways impacted the Merlot world and that people who ran from it didn’t even understand the movie line! Wonderful post- I love L’Ecole although its been a very long time since I’ve had one. We did get to visit when we were in Walla Walla a long time ago.

  8. I love the Duckhorn Merlots! I haven’t tried L’Ecole but enjoyed some other Merlots from WA state this month


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