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McIntyre Family Wines
December 16, 2019 | News & Articles | McIntyre Family Wines

Have your parents had "the Talk" with you about Merlot? (Fred Swan)

McIntyre Merlot Kimberly Vineyard Arroyo Seco 2015

By fredswan@norcalwine.com. Published on December 15, 2019. {FULL ENTRY HERE}

McIntyre is best-known for their vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA. The Pinot Noir vineyard, originally planted in 1972, arguably includes the first vitis vinifera planted in the region. But this article isn’t about the Santa Lucia Highlands or Pinot Noir or old vines. It’s about McIntyre Merlot you should buy by the case(s).

Have your Parents had “the Talk” with you about Merlot?

Before I get into this particular wine, let’s get some things out of the way about Merlot in general. If you’re old enough, you liked California Merlot in the 1980s. You hated Merlot in the late 1990s. You saw Sideways in 2004. And then you swore off Merlot in favor of Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and obscure but yummy wines from places in Europe nobody can find on a map. OMG, me too!

If you’re young, you never liked Merlot. You never hated Merlot. You never saw the movie. And you skipped straight to Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and obscure but yummy wines from places in Europe nobody can find on a map. I love your efficiency!

Fast forward… These days, Merlot isn’t an “It” grape. So, people who grow it are serious about it. People who order it expect quality—at prices lower than Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. And that brings me back to the 2015 McIntyre Merlot, which we’ve agreed you’re buying by the case(s).

2015 McIntyre Merlot Kimberly Vineyard Arroyo Seco AVA 92+ 14.4% 750ml $…

This Merlot is from the Arroyo Seco AVA, which is just south of—and warmer than—the Santa Lucia Highlands. It’s still a moderately cool region and primarily associated with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It has a long, dry, temperate growing season. That means growers can let their Merlot hang for as long as they like and the fruit will get ripe without losing much acidity or tannic structure.

Or tannic structure. Or tannic structure. The 2015 McIntyre Merlot, from their Kimberly Vineyard in Arroyo Seco, has beautiful black cherry fruit. And it has tannic structure for days.

How many days? That depends on your approach. In my case, for review purposes, it was three days. But it could be 1,825 days, or 3,650.

Upon initial opening and pouring, the opaque, ruby-purple Merlot offered friendly aromas of sweet spices, bing cherry jam, and cocoa. The first sip delivered full body with flavors that matched the nose. Then, the fine-grained, powdery and chalky tannins kicked in.

Tannins are attracted to protein. If you’re not eating protein-rich food with your wine, tannins collect the proteins in your saliva. Unfortunately, your taste buds rely on those same proteins. So, substantial tannins + no meat = short finish. The remedies are food, thorough decanting, or aging (aging the wine, not you, though they do seem to go hand-in-hand).

Meanwhile, back at the wine… After a few more grippy sips, I let it breathe in my glass for three hours. Re-tasting then showed no appreciable difference. That isn’t a bad thing. It can be a good thing. But it’s a thing you should know.

I put the cork back in the bottle and stored it in the fridge for three days. Then I poured myself a glass and let it come up to temperature for a couple of hours. I tasted the wine. It was the same as it had been three days before, except there was now a gorgeous cassis note on the nose too. Cassis notwithstanding, it was time for Plan D. 

I poured the wine into a decanter in a way that maximized air exposure. Then I poured it slowly back into the bottle, using a funnel, in a way that maximized air exposure. Then I poured it back into the decanter in a way that maximized air exposure. Then I let it sit there for an hour. 

Presto, change-o. The tannins were, and still are as I write this more than an hour later, thick and textural, but also luxurious and on the way to velvety. And they don’t get in the way of the finish, which is now long and delicious. Drinking it with some beef, the tannins are positively velvety.

So, How Much does the McIntyre Merlot Cost, Anyway?

The 2015 McIntyre Merlot comes in a heavy, thick-glassed bottle with a deep punt. Heavy bottles are expensive and associated with high-quality wines. Deep punts accommodate a lot of sediment (which precipitates over years in a cellar) and are associated with wines intended to age. Both suggest an expensive wine. The McIntyre Merlot is just $28.

Hence my mention of cases. If you like red wine that is full in the mouth, with rich, ripe—not overripe—fruit and plush tannins, you’re going to like this wine a lot. And, because of the structure, moderate acidity, and an abundance of fruit, it should age quite well. The tannins will slowly diminish and complexity will build. 

So, I’d consider buying a case. Open a bottle every two years. When the wine’s in a spot you love, go hog-wild on the rest. If you can afford two cases now, you can go hog-wilder later. I suspect the sweet spot will start in about five years, but it depends on how you like your wines and how cold your cellar is.


McIntyre Vineyards is SIP Certified.

[Sustainability is important and I think consumers should know which wineries are making an effort. From now on, I’ll be including notes on sustainability status for wines and wineries in articles when possible.]

Copyright Fred Swan 2019. Images courtesy of McIntyre Vineyards. All rights reserved.

About the author: Fred Swan is an Oakland-based writer, educator, and event sommelier. He’s written for GuildSomm.com, Daily.SevenFifty.com, The Tasting Panel, SOMM Journal, PlanetGrape.com, and more. Fred teaches a wide range of classes at the San Francisco Wine School. He’s founder/producer of Wine Writers’ Educational Tours, an annual, educational conference for professional wine writers. He also leads seminars, private wine tours, and conducts tastings, dinners, and events for wineries, companies, and private parties. Fred’s certifications include WSET Diploma, Certified Sommelier, California Wine Appellation Specialist, Certified Specialist of Wine, French Wine Scholar, Italian Wine Professional, Napa Valley Wine Educator, Northwest Wine Appellation Specialist, and Level 3 WSET Educator. He’s twice been awarded a fellowship by the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers.


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