Sunday, February 1, 2009

2003 Escafeld Merlot

Type: Red
Producer: Escafeld
Variety: Merlot
Country: USA
Region: California
SubRegion: Central Coast
Appellation: Monterey County
Price: $19.99 from WineQ[disclosure- I am not sure, but believe this was a sample from WineQ]

The Little Wooden Guy is impressed, really impressed, at a $20 wine that screams "cellar me" as loudly and clearly as this does.

Night One

Don't put your nose too far into a glass of this. It will reach up and punch you right in that nose. Black cherries and mulberry, green grassy spices like sage, rosemary along with some cardamom. There is a smoky smell, too. The easy thing would be to say "bacon" and keep moving, but that would not be accurate. No, think instead the blackened grill drippings below a rotisserie leg of lamb.

Black cherries, blackened edges of grilled meat, a single fennel seed, all make up the initial attack. Chocolate shows up on the mid-palate, as the cherries take the lead over everything else on the attack, leaving not so much chocolate covered cherries, as cherries repeatedly dredged in barely sweetened cocoa powder until it is thick with the stuff. The finish is long. The tannins are strong, finely powdered but leathery-drying. This is still very tightly wound. I suspect this might be one of the real Night Two successes.

One more word for Night One, and it's just a hint now. I suspect it might really show up on Night Two. The word? Umami. That's Japanese for "savory." In Chinese, the word is "xiānwèi," or "fresh flavor." If you like Asian food think soy sauce. If you go with more of a European bent, think anchovy paste. It is a certain richness, fullness of flavor, a "certain something" that makes the four senses you are more familiar with, salty, sweet, bitter and sour, just work better.

Night Two

The nose has not changed a lot since Night One. It is still big and aggressive, fruity, earthy and complex. The cherries are a little more obvious. The spice bite is a little sharper.

On Night Two the fruit seems a little darker. Some blackberry joins the black cherries. There is still some smokey grilled meat and the fennel stands out a little more. Soy sauce makes a real appearance on the mid-palate, right before the infusion of unsweetened cocoa. Finish is long and savory. Tannins remain very strong, even twenty-four hours after it was opened. Put this one away for five years then open it. In fact, buy half a case or more, then open the first one in five years. I expect you will decide to wait another two or three years before opening the next one. This is a very moderately priced Central Coast Merlot, not the sort of wine you would usually buy to cellar over a long period of time, but this might be a real jewel. Only time will tell, but it it tremendously promising.

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