Sebastiani Merlot Sonoma County 2009

sebastiani-merlot-sonoma-county-2009By now, some of you have noticed a value-priced California Merlot on PLCB shelves, a Chairman’s Selection offering from the storied Sebastiani Winery of Sonoma. You may be leaning in for a buy. Well, I’m not here to get in your way… but you won’t see me cheering the choice either.

This bottle, the Sebastiani Merlot Sonoma County 2009, offered in Pennsylvania for $10.99, is tricky to simplify. On one hand, I could see buying it in bulk for a party or a DIY wedding bar. It would please most of the crowd most of the time, more so a couple drinks in. The price is an attention-getter when compared to the majority of online sites hovering around $14, and few of us can claim to be above the temptation of a low-ball brand name from Cali. Despite all that, I’d still proceed with caution.

Here’s the thing.

This is why Merlot gets a bad name. To begin with, the Sebastiani is approachable as hell from first pour. No crime there. The nose is sweet and richly fruited, a telegraph of the round black and blueberry assault aimed at your tongue buds. It’s mixed with subtle spice and a stinging acidity that could be the wine’s best asset. There’s some initial complexity, a little earthiness.

You might, at this point, think you’ve found a bargain basement, mold-breaking Merlot that matters. Hold that thought. Before you can say Nilla Wafer, the finish plunges into a crevasse of doe-eyed dumb vanilla. It’s sweet and saturated, a candied finish that surrenders to a knot of wood and bitter tannins.

There you sit, swirling and searching for a remaining sign of redemption in the glass. Drop me a line if you find it. There’s little damage to sweat, though. You’re only 11 bucks lighter, survivor of another oaky avalanche on Merlot Mountain.

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