Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Washington Merlot v. California

It is November and to raise awareness to men's health issues the month has been renamed to "Movember."  Last year Robbie McEwan grew a mullet in honor of Movember.  I'm not sure it turned out as good the mullet that Vladimir Karpets rocks, but who could?

We are in the thick of Cyclocross season and that means the pro road racers are already dreaming of the next UCI Stage race in Australia.  Meanwhile, the cross racers are working into top form in preparation for their world championships in January.  Where would you rather race your bike in January?  Australia in the sun, or Koksidje in North West Belgium?

Merlot sounds a bit like Movember, so this week's challenge features a Washington Merlot vs a California Merlot.

Olsen Estates 2008 Merlot v. Kunde Family Estate 2006 Sonoma Valley Merlot

Tale of the Tape

Kunde Family Estate 2006 Sonoma Valley Merlot

100% Sonoma Valley Merlot

Aged for 18 months in 30% new French, Hungarian and American oak barrels.

Aged for an additional 20 months in bottle prior to release in Spring 2010.

Purchased at Corky Cellars for $15.99

Olsen Estates 2008 Merlot

100% estate grown merlot from the Yakima Valley AVA

Aged for 16 months in 100% new French Oak barrels.

Olsen estates has been in the vineyard business for more than 25 years.  The timing of their decision in 2006 to enter the wine business ended up being "not so good."  (More details from Paul Gregutt here) As a result, they have returned to focus on their vineyards, shutting down their winery.  Unfortunate for them, but good fortune for us wine drinkers that like to find a great wine at a great price.

Purchased at Bin 41 for $20

Round 1.  First Opening

The Kunde Family Estates was a bit timid, choosing to crawl under the ring ropes modestly showing a nose of cherries and toasty oats.  The palate features dried cherry and cocoa with a tart semisweet finish.

The Olsen estates was a bit more flamboyant, but nearly tripped as it attempted to leap off the top rope.  The nose features dark cherry, soy and wet asphalt with a palate of dark cherry, semisweet chocolate and a dry finish with some notes of sweet tea.

Both Luchadors seem to be slow starters.  Neither one is doing much in round 1, seemingly waiting for their opponent to make a mistake.  Round 1 goes to Olsen Estates by the slimmest of margins,  gaining an edge by demonstrating a bit more complexity. 

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

Some say imitation is the greatest form of flattery.  If that is true then the Kunde is paying major props to Olsen Estates by gathering up a nose of cherries and soy sauce with a palate of cherries and tart semi-sweet chocolate that leads into a tart tea finish.

The Olsen Estate won't fall for the flattery and continues on its mission of dominance with a nose of dark cherry, light clove, soy sauce and smoked meats.  The palate is robust with dark cherry, cocoa and notes of tart cedar.  The finish is sweet with dry cherry bark and green tea.

Another round to the Olsen Estates.

Round 3. One day later

The Kunde has moved into some type of altered state with a nose showing some funky dark cherries and bitter cocoa.  The palate is dark cherries with a tart cherry bark finish.  The tannins are out front - loud and proud  This Luchador appears to be disoriented and may have taken one too many blows to the head.

The Olsen has carried its round two performance on to the final round with a nose of dark cherry, soy and a hint of chocolate.  The palate is showing strong notes of dark cherry backed by clove, menthol and some tart spices on the finish.  Also not as integrated as I would have expected with the tannins playing a dominant role in Olsen's ring presence.

Round three goes to Olsen estates for a clean sweep in what turned out to be a slightly uninspiring contest.

Wrap up and over all observations

Both of these Merlots would benefit from some more time training before getting in the ring (or more time in the cellar) with the tannins being more forward than I expected.  Overall the comparison was interesting, although I was expecting a bigger bruising Merlot from Sonoma.  If you have recommendations for California Merlot let me know.

I give the Olsen Estates an 87 and the Kunde an 86.

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