Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Blackbird Blackbird: Otis Kenyon Merlot

Blackbird singing in the dead of night.
Take these broken wings and learn to fly.
All your life.
You were only waiting for this moment to arise  - Lennon & McCartney

Is it finally safe for us Merlot lovers to "come out of the closet?" In spite of the persecution that Merlot received during the times of "Sideways," many of us Merlot lovers had to go underground to sip on that often maligned red wine that's the poor relation to King Cab.  Even novice wine consumers, who typically nursed on white zin, were trashing the black grape that derived it's name from the Old French name for a young blackbird (Turdus merula), a diminutive of "merle."

It's not that I happen to love every Merlot that comes along, but I have a strong affinity for our Merlots from Washington State. They are bold, expressive, food friendly and Walla Walla, in particular, is known for producing some of the finest Merlot in the world.  I tell people often, that if you don't care for Merlots (or more like someone told you it wasn't cool to admit to liking them), keep sampling and keep an open mind and you will finally discover several Merlots you will enjoy. 

Otis Kenyon is producing Merlot that can make the most critical of Merlots change their mind with one sniff from the glass.  These are fragrant wines and with each vintage, they are very different and very dramatic.   Otis Kenyon  is a family owned and managed winery and four generations of  deep historical ties in the Walla Walla Valley. They are a boutique winery that produces limited quantities of affordable Bordeaux and Rhone-style wines, not only with grapes from their estate, but fruit sourced from well-known Walla Walla Valley vineyards.   

If it is still available, I recommend the Otis Kenyon Merlot - 2006. It is powerful!  A light sniff from the glass filled my nose with violets - like Berdoues Violettes de Toulouse Eau de Parfum, one of my favorite old fashioned fragrances.  It was heady! It was wonderful!  Who knew that this dark red wine could remind me of spring?  Once on the palate, flavors of dark cherries and plums came out. It had an "earthy" quality that is so typical of Walla Walla grown Merlots.  Notes of milk chocolate rounded out the mouth.  

One of the things that makes the tasting of wines so enjoyable is the unparalleled vintages and what the harvest of a particular year brought us.  Otis Kenyon Merlot - 2007 is a very different Merlot from it's predecessor and yet still very enjoyable on its own.  The nose was bright with notes of brambleberries reaching out.  The acids were well balanced, yet made my mouth salivate wanting to keep sipping.  More berries came through on the palate and it finished with wafts of smoke and dark cocoa.  

Otis Kenyon are fine examples of two very unique and well-made (and well-grown) Merlots that need to be explored before they fly away. 

1 comment:

Erika said...

So glad to see some more attention called to the Otis Kenyon merlot. This wine has been one of my own favorite new discoveries: simultaneously lush and refined, and anything but boring. These are the sorts of wines that should bring people to reconsider Washington merlots.