A Decade After ‘Sideways,’ Merlot Survives and Thrives

merlot“If anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am not drinking any (bleeping) Merlot!”

When movie-goers heard Paul Giamatti’s Miles make that proclamation in the movie “Sideways,” and in another scene heard him wax poetic about Pinot Noir, it changed the California wine industry — perhaps forever.

In reaction to public demand, wineries and growers planted new Pinot Noir vineyards up and down the California coast, from Santa Barbara to Mendocino. Today, there’s even an American Viticultural Area that is devoted primarily to Pinot Noir: the sprawling Sonoma Coast.

It’s hard to believe that 10 years have passed since “Sideways” stood the wine industry on its head. But we are happy to report that Merlot is still alive and well and taken very seriously by hundreds and hundreds of California wineries.

One North Coast estate that has always taken Merlot seriously is Duckhorn Vineyards. In fact, fundamental to Duckhorn’s tradition was the early decision to focus on the production of Merlot. Dan Duckhorn felt that this elegant varietal was under appreciated in North America.

“I liked the softness, the seductiveness, the color, the fact that it went with a lot of different foods,” he said in an interview on the winery’s website. “It seemed to me to be a wonderful wine to just enjoy. I became enchanted with Merlot.”

And so did a lot of other people. If you’re one of them, or if you’d like to see what all the enchantment is about, check out today’s Vinesse Cyber Circle sampler.

  • Tomorrow: A Merlot-friendly recipe for cold winter nights.
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