Is there anything more American than a satisfying glass of Merlot made in the U.S.A.? When it comes to pairing with a meal as Americana as hamburgers and hotdogs on the BBQ grill with baked beans, potato salad and corn-on-the-cob, not to mention fixins like bacon, barbecue sauce and cheddar cheese, the wine that goes best is good ole Merlot. We’ve gotten fancy these days drinking more esoteric reds like Pinot Noir, Syrah, Malbec or Zinfandel, but you have to remember that Merlot is the reason a lot of Americans today started drinking red wine in the first place. Merlot was huge in the 90s, like HUGE. Merlot production in the U.S. jumped 500% during the Clinton years. Merlot was king, for a time.
It’s great to have a glass of the 2014 ANCIENT PEAKS Merlot to remind us just why Merlot is so easy to like. First of all, good American Merlot should never be too expensive. In America, Merlot was meant for the working class. A wine everyone could enjoy. Ancient Peaks, a winery out of the Santa Margarita area of Paso Robles, California, happens to specialize in making super high-quality wines for a reasonable price. If that isn’t the embodiment of American idealism, what is? The wine is dark, plump and juicy—pure and fresh flavors of blackberry and boysenberry jam—with interesting notes of lavender, eucalyptus and vanilla on the outskirts. Its mouthfeel is full, round and velvety. What sets this Merlot apart from being merely a decent, standard varietal wine is a level of complexity in its texture, a result of the complexity laden in the Santa Margarita soils that lay beneath the ancient peaks of the Santa Lucia mountains that rise above the vineyards. This added characteristic might be a calling to pair with fancier foods like, perhaps, a duck confit or beef bourguignon, but we’re sticking with Americana here. Merlot, for all it stands for—more than any other American-made red wine—embodies the common spirit of our Independence Day. –J.M.