We taste hundreds of wines a month and thousands of wines every year. It surprises us that more clients are not hip to California Merlot. The irony is that the same clients don't think twice about paying hundreds of dollars, or even thousands of dollars per bottle for a Merlot from Bordeaux!
Here's the secret: Merlot is one of the best value wines in California. Syrahs from California may hold first place.
Jason Pahlmeyer, a former trial attorney, launched the project in the early 1980's with the help of Randy Dunn. In 1986, the red blend received immediate critical acclaim from none other than Robert Parker. Later, Bob Levy and Helen Turley made the wines. David Abreu planted the vineyards. Today, Bibiana González Rave is head winemaker and oversees the Jayson and Wayfarer brands too.
This wine is a blend of
1% Cabernet Sauvignon
85% new French oak for 20 months.
Tasting notes: Aromas of red fruit, crushed raspberries and jam mingle with notes of orange-spiced tea and blueberry muffin. On the palate, a rich entry turns soft and plush, with bright red fruit supported by balanced acidity. This is a juicy wine, with satisfying depth and length.
Aromas of blackberries, violets and dark fruits. Very aromatic. Full-bodied, round-textured and very balanced with both firmness and freshness. Energetic at the end. Drink or hold.~ 96pts, JS
Hugely concentrated and a touch reduced, this is a lovely, generously full-bodied wine, rich as a dark-cherry cobbler in flavor. The barrel oak is pronounced and supportive of the wine's seasonings of black pepper, violet and plum. The ripeness and richness are profound, met by a structure that suggest further cellaring; enjoy best 2025–2030. ~95WE
There are few truly profound Merlots being made in California, but Pahlmeyer has consistently made some of the best. I still have some that are 20+ years old and aging magnificently. I suspect that the last three vintages that they made were better than anything I bought 20+ years ago. The 2015 Merlot is 100% Merlot, but the crop level was off by 50%-60% because of the horrendous flowering that makes 2015 a relatively tiny crop in both Napa and Sonoma. This is a big, fleshy, rather hefty and chewy style of Merlot with loads of chocolate, blackberry, cassis, extraordinary opulence, voluptuous texture (as you might expect) and terrific ripeness without going over the edge. This should drink well young, but age effortlessly for 20-25 years.
Pahlmeyer certainly has one of the most consistently superb resumés for the last 30 years that any winery could desire. ~93-95pts, WA
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