Monday, June 18, 2007


Jack: If they want to drink Merlot, we’re drinking Merlot.

Miles Raymond: No, if anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am NOT drinking any fucking Merlot!

- dialogue from Sideways, 2004

Tonight, Denny and I are going to have to suffer through yet another Sommelier Guild tasting dinner. And we’ll be drinking plenty of fucking Merlot.

The theme of tonight’s tasting appears to be Deathmatch: Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. We’ll work our way through a series of bouts in which a Napa Valley Merlot is paired up with a Cab from the same vintage. Which ones will still be standing at the end of the evening?

This one may well be the toughest yet. I’m out of shape, having missed last month’s Guild banquet. That will make it especially difficult to deal with the avalanche of Fancy Food and the flood of Expensive Wine that they’ll be flinging at us at Petite Auberge:

2005 Ferrari Carano Chardonnay (the evening’s token white wine)

Assorted Hors d’Oeuvres

Flight 1:
1995 Truchard Napa Valley Merlot
1995 Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon, Knights Valley

French onion soup with Swiss and Münster cheese

Flight 2:
1996 Pine Ridge Napa Valley Merlot “Crimson Creek”
1996 Hess Collection Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Chicken Cordon Bleu served over risotto

Flight 3:
1997 Turnbull Napa Valley Merlot
1997 Mount Veeder Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Beef Wellington served with bordelaise and béarnaise sauces

Flight 4:
1999 Joseph Phelps Napa Valley Merlot
1999 Joseph Phelps Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Artisan cheese platter served with figs, dates, and walnuts

How the hell am I going to choke all this down? I guess I’ll have to force myself. Noblesse oblige, and all’s the Rich Man’s Burden all us SRF©’s gotta bear...

Update: I ended up preferring the Merlots over the Cabs in every flight...although they were all very close. And believe me when I tell you that it’s fairly difficult for an ordinary slob like me to distinguish a Merlot from a Cab in a blind tasting.

The last two flights were extraordinary...and some of the “lagniappe” was tasty as well. One of the guys brought a bottle of Stag’s Leap Winery’s 2001 Fay Vineyard Cab, a serious, mature bottle that was the perfect finish to the evening.

Bottom line: Either Cabernet or Merlot is fine with me, but the Merlots have a slight edge.

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