Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Back (again) to JAQK, I AM Drinking this $!%&'ing Merlot!

The market for premium merlot doesn't seem to be a big one, but there are some amazing examples available. Names like Selene, Leonetti, and Whitehall Lane remind us that Miles was dreadfully wrong to write off merlot. On the other hand, if you've had the supermarket-plonk merlot, it's hard to find fault in his proclamation.

Wine lovers should forever remain open-minded, especially with it comes to their tasting habits. While you or I may not like a particular varietal in one instance, perhaps trying that same varietal again but from a different producer or region will yield a differnet result. So then, the example I present is with merlot, a much-maligned grape, yet one that is found in some of the greatest wines in the world from Bordeaux to California and back.

I tasted another offering from JAQK Cellars after having previously tasted a syrah and a cabernet sauvignon from them in January. This is their Bone Dance Merlot, continuing the theme of gaming related labels. The name refers to a pair of dice bouncing across a table, since dice were traditionally made of bone. I'd urge you to check out the links to those previous reviews to get a sense of the quality that JAQK Cellars is attaining.

Here again I am making a conscious effort to look at hte color of the Bone Dance and compare it to other merlots I have had. There's a wall of purple in the center of my glass, opaque and solid looking. As I look towards the edges though, the wine's color lightens towards a nearly violet hue.

I waited patiently for an hour before smelling and tasting, to try to maintain some kind of systemic consistency to my reviews. The first two things I smelled were vanilla and blueberries, like a blueberry cream tarte fresh out of the oven. Both were strong, what I would call the primary aromas. Secondary aromas, those that I can discern but are more nuanced would be hints of chocolate and black currant. There is a bit of alcoholic heat that distracts, which to me is somewhat disappointing. Still the JAQK Bone Dance has a positively luxurious nose, one that showcases a lot of what can make merlot a superb wine.

The flavors surprised me, as did the structure. I was able to taste the vanilla oak and some mixed berry jam quite easily. Hiding in there were a more dark chocolate flavor and some firm tannins. Texturally the tannins weaved a nice tapestry throughout the wine, even lending some body to the finish. Unfortunately, the finish was a bit abrupt for me, I wished for something with more carry-through. Interestingly I detected a bit of a raspberry puree note right as the wine tapered off, like the kind of puree you'd get on top of a dark chocolate dessert. This pleased me, being an avowed fan of raspberries.

For a suggested retail of $25, the Bone Dance doesn't blow you out of the water but it is very well put together. Texturally interesting wine, great tannin and some wonderful aromatics. A couple of things, the alcoholic tickle on the nose and the too-abrupt finish left me wishing this wine lived up to its potential though. Still, you could do a lot worse, especially at the price point. The 2007 JAQK Cellars Bone Dance Merlot shows how good merlot can be and is a well-priced wine. I thought for a while and ended up giving the wine a B. For you points-lovers, I would give this an 84 points. Not bad wine at all, perhaps just needs some more time in bottle.

This was a media sample from the winery.

Beau Carufel


  1. I remember I was working in a winery tasting room when Sideways came out. In the months following the movie's release, countless people would refuse to try the Merlot that was included in our tasting. I thought it was the dumbest thing ever.
    Freaking sheeple. Just because a movie says it doesn't mean it's true!

  2. I was working in wine retail at the time and remember all the wannabe-trendy faux-cultured idiots saying "oh I don't drink merlot, do you have any pinot?"