The over-rated Sideways Phenomenon

Most people know the plot, two guys head off to Santa Barbara wine country, one to have a last fling before his big day, the other to savor the fine foods and wine of the region, perhaps a little golf thrown in as well. It becomes well documented that “Miles” played by Paul Giamatti adores Pinot Noir, while denigrating Merlot. He is entitled to his opinion, who is not, but here is the rub. After the release of Sideways, Pinot Noir sales increased by 16% and Merlot sales decreased by 2% [as documented in a study by the wine economists].

Do we not trust our palates enough to enjoy something despite what anyone says about it. It has long been my opinion that if you enjoy a steak and Chardonnay or a Fish dish and Cabernet, then good on you.  Foodies might disagree, these are non-classic pairings but isn’t the beauty in enjoying the wine, and in that; drinking it in a manner that is enjoyable for you, despite what so-called experts say about it? I say throw the rule book out the window, allow us to make serious wine, but for heaven’s sake, please enjoy the stuff and have fun with it.

In the 10 years we have been making wine, up until our newly released 2009, we have only made one varietal bottling of Merlot, which was in 2006. Admittedly there is some trepidation, perhaps the sideways phenomenon affected more than just the consumer, the winemaker too? Well time to make a stand and win back those doubters.

Pinot Noir can no doubt be ethereal, but I think Merlot can make somewhat of a comeback. If Petrus labeled their wine as Merlot [which the wine is mostly composed of] then I think consumers would start viewing it as a serious grape and wine.

Merlot is one of the six permitted red grapes in Bordeaux  and is the most widely planted in that region, thriving in the regions of Pomerol and Saint Emilion. Unfortunately many see its value as a blender, usually as a foil to the sterner and more tannic Cabernet Sauvignon. That statement has merit and we have used it in exactly that manner [in both our Heritage and Cabernet bottlings].

But fine tuning the vineyard over the last few years has changed our thinking somewhat, in that following the bottling of our 2009 Merlot, the 2010 which currently matures in oak, might be the wine of the vintage. I think it is time for the new Merlot resurgence.

A star waiting to be discovered

So may I introduce to you, the 2009 Merlot. A majority Merlot blended with small amounts of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon to give it some backbone. Matured for 10 months in second fill French oak barrel and then bottled un-fined and un-filtered, this wine should surprise a few consumers for its incredible nose of dark fruits that follow through onto the palate, all held together by fine tannins and mouth-watering acidity. It is a young wine that we feel might need to be aged a few years to really reach it’s potential. It’s darn good I can tell you that, but I am biased so come down to the tasting room and try for yourself.

I any case, I think Merlot although underrated in my opinion, has a bright future in at Keswick Vineyards. It is time to shrug the moniker of “blender” and be viewed as a serious stand alone.

Just my opinion



Keswick Vineyards