Great Merlot, Sublime Bordeaux, Wine Advice with Le Sommelier International

Our resident sommelier, Julius P. Johnson IV, answers your questions on wine as part of our monthly series…

Q: Everyone thinks they’re like a wine expert these days because they saw “Sideways”, so everyone’s all down on Merlot. Well I want to shake things up and wipe the smug smiles of those idiots faces. What’s a really good Merlot?

A: Duckhorn, bitch (pronounced “bee-atch”)! Yes, the Duckhorn, Three Palms Vineyard, Merlot from Napa Valley will melt the smugness off those nuevopinotfile faces faster than a lacrosse player can chug keg beer out of a hot sweaty boot. The ’97 vintage is ready to roll now and for the next 20 years.

Oh, and if your smug friends (not just yours, I have them too) want to poo-poo the Mer-lot, be comforted in the fact that more will be left for you. Since fads drive price and mass production, rest assured that the Pinot will become watered down and overpriced by next year, leaving those open-minded, free thinking imbibers a window to explore the benefits of other grapes. Also note that the pinot grape is much more temperamental than merlot and will not tolerate poor winemaking – so the overload of pinot labels that you will soon see on the grocery store shelves will not hold ground to the superfluity of brands in the merlot section.

Q. I want to get my friend a really, really nice bottle of wine. Price is no object but I want to be able to partake in my own present, meaning I need something that’s ready to open right away. What’s a good bet?

A: Well since we are on a merlot kick, there is no nicer bottle than Chateau Petrus. A supremely powerful Bordeaux from the right bank made primarily with what grape? Yup, you guessed it: merlot. While this sultry beauty was not classified by Napolean in 1855 as a “First-Growth”- it is measured as the benchmark when pricing futures by the critics who come in droves to slurp up the barrel samples each vintage. The vociferous Robert Parker says of the wine “imagine a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup laced with layers of coffee and cherry and encased in a layer of Valhrona chocolate…”

For a psychedelic, ready-to-drink-now experience, that promises to get you sideways, charge a Magnum (2 bottle size) of the vintage 1961 to your American Express card. You shouldn’t look at the bill though, until after you’ve finished the bottle with your friend and are dancing naked in his front yard.

Julius P. Johnston, IV, is USOUNDS resident Sommelier. You may write to him via our general inbox: usounds at gmail dot com.

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