Anyone who really gets into wine has an “ah-ha!” moment — otherwise known as an epiphany wine.
It’s the first time you take a sip from a wine glass and think, “Wow, this is really good. I’m going to have to drink wine more often.”
My epiphany wine was a Merlot made by Duckhorn Vineyards. I won’t bore you with the details, but I can tell you that once I’d sipped that wine during the 1980s, there was no turning back.
I had a big jug of “Chablis” — which, as it turned out, wasn’t French Chablis at all, but rather a non-descript blend of less-than-esteemed white grapes from non-disclosed vineyard sources — sitting in a kitchen cupboard. When I returned home after “discovering” the Duckhorn Merlot, I poured the remaining contents of that jug down the drain.
After doing some research, I learned that 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.”
So did a lot of other people, including me.
There wasn’t a National Merlot Day back then, but today there is… and in 2017, November 7 is the day.
A little-known bit of trivia is that far more Merlot is grown in the Bordeaux appellation of France than Cabernet Sauvignon. Acclaimed vintner Christian Moueix, who oversees production at one of Bordeaux’s most famous estates, Chateau Petrus, has said: “Merlot is a friendly and delicate varietal which, on the proper terroirs and harvested at its peak, produces wines characterized by voluptuous, generosity and distinction.”
Today, the “terroirs” that provide welcoming homes to the variety have multiplied, and now include not only Bordeaux, but also various parts of California, Washington, Chile, Argentina and elsewhere.
Make no mistake about it: Merlot is a variety that has created “ah-ha!” moments for countless wine drinkers. It’s a variety worth celebrating on National Merlot Day… and every day.