Merit + Heritage = Meritage


This next installment of "great grapes" isn't just about one grape, per se....but a variety of wine that is becoming very popular as the US's answer to Bordeaux blends. Even before I got serious about wine, I knew that France was supposed to be the mecca of wine. I'm setting myself up for a flogging again but...I don't really see why. Perhaps someone can whisk me off to an all-expenses-paid trip out there to show me what the fuss is about? ;-) provides a brief, no-frills explanation of the blend. Basically, a Bordeaux can ONLY be called that if it's produced in a particular region in France. Six grapes go into it: Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Carmenere. The primary grape is usually Cab Sauv or Merlot, and it's rare that all six will go into the same bottle. Also, putting "Bordeaux" on the bottle justifies having to charge "beaucoup" bucks (and that, ladies and gentlemen, is the extent of my French language skill).

So our Californian winemaker rebels decided to fight back with a super-blend of their own. Tom da Wine guy provides an excellent summary on his blog...these Trader Joe's guys know their stuff! In the 80s, these intrepid vintners combined the words "merit" and "heritage" to form "meritage." Cute, no? These use the same grapes as a Bordeaux, but they're grown right here in the states and have to use at least two of the grapes. I gotta tell ya, it's really cool to see how different places blend it. Non-red drinkers be warned-- most of these pack a powerful punch! They are best paired with a heavy steak dinner, or on its own with deep, intellectual conversations going well into the night.

Just last week at Rappahannock we tried two of these blends: the 2008 Meritage and the 2006 "Super R." The 2008 had 5 of the 6 grapes in it, with Cab Sauv AND Merlot being the primaries. Therefore, it was very "dark-fruit" forward, but extremely well balanced. I could spend all night trying to pick out all the grapes, which is no small feat for my novice's palate. Not to be outdone, Pearmund Cellars (same folks who own Winery at La Grange from our Tri County cruise) features a 2008 Ameritage and Ameritage Reserve. As you can see, they took patriotism and wordplay one step further! I like. The reserve blends Malbec, Cab Sauv, and Petit Verdot. No percentages are listed, so it appears I will have to get out to Warrenton soon to taste this from a new perspective! I honestly don't remember if I tasted it last time, because the customer service soured my experience. They are, however, listed in our "Redemption Corner," so we are looking forward to giving them another shot and tasting a "super red" blend right here in our own backyard! Stay tuned.