Thursday, May 19, 2011

Merlot Day and 2008 Cana's Feast Columbia Valley Merlot

Sometimes the quirks of being a wine blogger can't help but make me chuckle. I was sent a pitch for the "First Annual Merlot Day" earlier this month from Kobrand, St. Francis Winery (the client) is the sponsoring winery. This follows the theme of "varietal days" that have been popping up over the past year so I jumped on board and posted about it on my blog. Unfortunately, I wasn't offered any samples of St. Francis merlot to taste today, but the always-wonderful Tamara at Cana's Feast saw a tweet about my participation and sent me a bottle of their 2008 Columbia Valley merlot to try. Apparently a group of bloggers did get the St. Francis merlot, maybe one day I'll make it to the cool kid's club!

Then again, I get Cana's Feast merlot to taste, so I sure as hell am not complaining! They're one of my favorite producers in Oregon and I previously reviewed the Cana's Feast Sangiovese Grosso last year. The 2008 merlot uses fruit sourced entirely from the Tapteil Vineyard the Red Mountain appellation of eastern Washington. Since only one vineyard contributes the fruit, it comes as no surprise that 172 cases were produced. 172 is miniscule compared to a lot of wines I've reviewed on this blog. For perspective, I recently reviewed a wine that had 30,000 cases made.

The vital stats are:
- 172 cases produced
- 100% Tapteil Vineyard on Red Mountain
- 15.0% alcohol (!!!!)
- 24 months in oak barrels
- $29 winery price

Nice color in my glass, but at the risk of sounding generic, I am looking at red wine. Deep, luxurious ruby which I like but also see a lot. I'll admit though that after seeing the 15.0% alcohol on the label, I was a bit bummed out and reminded that my alcohol opinions definitely favor the "old school" line of thinking.

I like the aromas, there's definitely a strong oak influence that is warm and inviting instead of being too much like vanilla-soaked sawdust. Holding the oak in check is a wonderful earth/dark chocolate mix, a touch of something herbal, and black summer berries. I do get a bit of tickle from the alcohol but it isn't very noticeable compared to other merlots I have tasted.

The balance is superb, with a flash of acidity shoring up the finish and making me think this merlot would be awesome with a big, medium rare, gourmet-cheese topped burger. With bacon on top. Lots of muscular tannins speak to the aging potential of the Cana's Feast merlot, while the dark fruits integrate well with that earthy/mineral streak and bittersweet chocolate flavors that come into play on the mid-palate. A singularly complex example of merlot that I am told showcases both the terroir of Red Mountain and the skill of winemaker Patrick Taylor.

On a whim, and because I was hungry, I decided to give the Cana's Feast merlot a shot with some jerkies I was recently sent. The awesome Janie at House of Jerky sent me a big assortment of jerkies they make, ranging from wild boar to buffalo, venison, turkey, and beef. There were various styles too from teriyaki to hot/sweet, and all-natural. Since I am an admittedly huge fan of jerky, this was like opening up a box of manna from heaven.

My favorites? The all-natural beef jerky, black pepper wild boar jerky, and teriyaki turkey jerky flat out rocked it. Each of them brought flavors that were a nice complement to the robust merlot and if you're a jerky fan like I am, you need to check out House of Jerky. Taking a sip of wine after the jerkies allowed the fruit flavors in the wine to manifest more clearly, showing up as ripe, vibrant red and black fruit. It was fascinating.

For me, the first annual "Merlot Day" was a lot of fun, I got to tweet back and forth with some wine friends, taste a superb merlot from Cana's Feast, overindulge in jerky from House of Jerky, and write this blog post up. I scored the Cana's Feast an A-, with a BUY recommendation. I think for the price, it's hard to find merlot this good, this balanced, and this ageworthy. Check out the Cana's Feast website to buy the wine, or email them to see who might carry it in your neighborhood.

The food and wine were sent to me as press samples for review purposes.

Beau Carufel


  1. Just so ya know, I bought my St. Francis Merlot. ;) I was exceptionally pissed earlier today (sitting in traffic *always* makes me a happy camper...eyeroll) and decided I wanted a good bottle of wine, saw it on the shelf and bought it (figured I'd kill 2 birds with one stone).

  2. Good on ya, but I bet they didn't pitch you a story which you then published in your blog ;-)
    So did you like the St. Francis?