2009 Forgeron Cellars Merlot

Hello friends. I sympathize with Merlot.

It is genetically predisposed to become soft, round, and fleshy. Me too.

Fortunately, there are personal trainers in the world, for humans and grapes. And Marie-Eve Gilla is a Merlot trainer extraordinaire:

Much of Merlot’s decline in popularity has been traced to the famous scene in Sideways (“No, if anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am NOT drinking any [bleeping] Merlot!”). Okay, sure, but there’s a reason that line was written:

A lot of California Merlot really, really sucked. (Much of it still sucks; some has gotten better)

Soft, fleshy, insipid: this was an adult beverage for a child’s palate. And it wasn’t restricted to California; plenty of Washington examples over the years have been deeply unpleasant.

But climatically, I do think cooler Washington is more suited to early-ripening Merlot than California, and we have had some knockout examples over the past few years to underscore that point.

The latest is this 2009 vintage from Marie-Eve at Forgeron, whose only drawback is the painfully small production (185 cases). It is a near 50/50 split from two outstanding growers: Dick Boushey’s cool-climate, eponymous site in the Yakima Valley, and Ted Wildman’s sun-drenched Stone Tree Vineyard on the Wahluke Slope.

While Marie-Eve was born and trained in Burgundy, she has a clear affinity for this Bordelaise varietal, whipping it into shape, trimming the baby fat and making a Merlot for adults. The deep, intense aromas of black cherry, high-cacao chocolate, and peppermint prepare you for a lovely wine ahead, and the palate delivers. Let’s talk about mouthfeel, because that’s where Washington Merlot really distinguishes itself. This is silky in its initial stages, allowing the flavors to explode across the attack and mid-palate. Transitioning into the finish, it picks up enough chewiness that, tasted blind, you might start thinking this was Cabernet.

But no, it’s Merlot, with its lovely core of red cherry fruit, shaded by notes of clean soil and lovely minty/eucalyptus lift. There is intensity and complexity to burn here, a real feast for the intellect and the senses. A future issue of Wine Enthusiast will display Paul Gregutt’s affection for this wine, as well, but for now, all we know is the score, and the fact that this was the highest-ranked Merlot in PaulG’s Top 100 list.

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “($30); [NO REVIEW TEXT PUBLISHED YET]. 93pts.”

First come first served up to 12 bottles, and the wine should arrive in about a week, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.

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