On the Wine Side - Merlot's Triumphant Return Fri, Sep 23, 22 Merlot's Triumphant Return The wine education classes for September are off to a great start, with lots of interesting wines being sampled and explored. Earlier this week, we learned why Merlot is still so popular worldwide even though it has experienced the "Sideways Effect" from a negative comment in that movie almost 20 years ago, causing it to trail in popularity behind Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. For people who love good wine - and good values in wine - Merlot's seeming decline is a reason to revisit and even relish it. Merlot is characterized by deep fruit and even chocolatey notes with softer tannins. Winemakers around the world who appreciate these wonderful characteristics are making some really good Merlots. The class tasted Merlots from France, Chile and both coasts of the U.S. and it was especially fun to try West Coast v East Coast bottles. 2018 Indian Wells MerlotFrom Chateau Ste. Michelle in Washington state, we tried the 2018 Indian Wells Merlot. Chateau Ste. Michelle has been making wines in Washington for over 50 years, and is one of the largest producers in the state. They understand and work to maximize the state's terroirs. The grapes from the select Indian Wells vineyard grow in the arid Wahluke slopes of eastern Washington. The wine is aged for 18 months in oak, and it has an ABV of 14.5%. It's downright delicious and loaded with notes of blackberry, dark cherry, cocoa and a hint of spice. It's a wine worth lingering over, whether on its own or with a meal. 2014 Merlot Reserve From Macari Vineyards on the North Fork of Long Island, we tried the 2014 Merlot Reserve. Macari is a third-generation family owned and operated winery with 500 waterfront acres in Mattituck. They're dedicated to regenerative farming and understanding how ideal a location they have for producing Merlot. Their wines consistently win awards in competitions around the world. Aged over a year in oak and now in the bottle for eight years, this wine is indeed worthy of Reserve status. Bright berry notes leap out of the glass on the nose, and on the palate it's all elegance and finesse, enticing you to discover and rediscover its many lovely layers of flavor. The ABV is 13.3% West Coast v East Coast winner? The class agreed they were both wonderful in their own ways and are clearly wines that are produced with pride and purpose. If it's a softer but still dark fruit and dry wine you're looking to drink for pure enjoyment, that you can be sure will complement a range of foods from plain to fancy, go Merlot. This class will be repeated in October, so be sure to sign up if you want to learn - and try - more!