by Fred McMillin
for November 24, 1997

Merlot Can Steal the Show


  • Acres of Merlot in California
    1960-   2 acres
    1965-   1,742
    1985-   2,538
    1990-   7,435
    1996-   18,000 acres

  • With this soaring production, there is a virtual lake of murky, swampy, mediocre Merlots out there. ...The key to [avoiding them] is to stick with wineries that have a good track record with this grape. - James Laube, Wine Spectator (paraphrase)

  • Whitehall Lane Merlot Track Record
    The 1990  —  "A terrific Merlot," Robert Parker, Jr.
    The 1991  —  "Bigger and riper than most Merlots," Jerry Mead
    The 1994  —  "Deep ruby color, well structured, lengthy finish ," Wine Enthusiast Magazine
The Rest of the Story: My 18 tasters compared two covered bottles of 1995 Merlot. They did not know that one had a fine track record (the Whitehall Lane) and the other was a new, low-cost model, which shall go unnamed. They confirmed James Laube's advice. The newcomer was rated AWFUL, the Whitehall, Highly Recommended. Over and out.

The Wine:
1995 Whitehall Lane Merlot, Napa Valley
Contact—Kristen Kettel, (415) 771-2887, Fax (415) 441-9463

Postscript: California's 18,000 acres of Merlot is most impressive, but the Golden State is not about to overtake Bordeaux. When I last looked the acreage of Merlot on the Gironde was 80,000!

Note: For more about Whitehall Lane, see the October WineDay article about their '94 Reserve Cab.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

Read more articles by Fred McMillin in the eGGsf

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