The little wine that could: Napa Cellars 2009 Merlot Napa Valley

2009 Napa Cellars MerlotI think Merlot bashing has finally come to an end. Post Sideways, Pinot fever still continues but Merlot can rest easy now and get down to the business of wooing people again. So wineries like Napa Cellars — who continued to produce magnificently non-wimpy Merlots throughout the silly “hater” period– can bask in the kudos they deserve.

Despite their size and corporate-ish image, I’ve admired Napa Cellars’ wines for years. Winemaker Joe Shirley paid his dues in the Trinchero ranks (the family who runs the winery also invented White Zinfandel) for many years before landing his current sweet job at Napa Cellars in 2007. This Napa Valley boy knows how to make some Merlot.

Medium-bodied and fruity, it sings with bright red cherry, dusty raspberry, blackberry, plum and rich bittersweet chocolate. Vanilla oakiness comes through but it’s subtle enough that you barely notice. Supple tannins and well-balanced acidity make this a superior food wine too. A phenomenal value from Napa Valley’s Oak Knoll district.

Winery website

Sweetness: 1 out of 10
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Price: $18 – $22
Occasion: Sent as a sample from the winery
Availability: Nationally at big box stores and wine shops
Food pairing: Slow roasted meats like pot roast and cheeses like aged gouda


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