Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cleavage Creek Merlot Shiraz Blend

  I've written about Cleavage Creek before, about their mission and accomplishments in the fight against breast cancer. Previously, I reviewed their Chardonnay and a red blend , their "Secret Red". This bottle, the 2007 Tracy Hills Merlot Shiraz, unfortunately got lost in the shuffle of wine in and out of my samples stockpile.

About four weeks ago though, I found it and was excited to taste a blend like this. Merlot is much maligned unfortunately, and Syrah/Shiraz appears to be trending downwards in the market. Truly unfortunate because California can and does produce some real gems from both of those varietals. Cleavage Creek created this blend of 67% Syrah and 33% Merlot.

Great purple color in the glass, nice depth in the middle. It's light purple around the edges, gaining color towards the center. Fairly straightforward for this kind of red blend.

Big ripe fruit rushes up at me as I take a whiff. Aromas of blackberry jam and spices, the barest hints of herbs dance around the edges of that concentrated fruit. Straightforward, nothing crazy or too esoteric. I noticed an effect; the Syrah and Merlot were jockeying for position instead of complementing each other.

On the palate, I get a bit of heat and more of those ripe fruit notes. There's also something going on with a baking spice and cedar. Silky tannins mix with some baking chocolate, it all feels too fleeting though. I got a sense that this wine struggled with it's identity, the Syrah clashed with the Merlot, leaving me wishing for a more harmonious integration of flavors.

Out of the three wines Cleavage Creek sent me, this was the one that disappointed me, I suggest that perhaps the blend needs tweaking, maybe adding in another varietal like Petite Verdot would give some structure and ease some of the clashing flavors I struggled with. Alternately, perhaps this is a wine that simple needs a few more years to come together. At this time though, I give it a C+. I love what Budge Brown is doing at Cleavage Creek and have high hopes for their wines. They even opened a brand new tasting room in Napa Valley recently, you should go visit them if you get the chance.

This wine was a sample from the winery for review purposes.

Beau Carufel


  1. C+ isn't bad actually, it just means that to me, the wine was average and didn't strike me as particularly interesting. My grading scale is just like a college's where a C is average but not bad, just not good/above average either.