If you have seen the 2004 movie, Sideways, you may recall the famous line by Miles, “If anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving… I am NOT drinking any f**king merlot!” The movie and the quote gained much popularity and even triggered what was called, “The Sideways Effect”. Around the same time as Sideways hit the market, merlot sales declined. Some say the movie was the primary impact, and we even saw wineries in Napa Valley campaigning to overcome it. Others say it was merely a matter of coincidence. Most likely, the real reason for the decline was that the market simply became saturated with inexpensive merlots of so-so quality.
It was about this same time that we started to really discover wine, and the famous quote pretty much summed up my feeling for merlot. As a big fan of the movie, was I living “The Sideways Effect”? Maybe. But, now that I have opened my mind a little and given merlot a chance, I’ve determined my opinions were most likely due to tasting wines of dubious quality.
While still not a major fan, every now and then I come across a merlot that really surprises me. One recent discovery is from a winery I never would have expected ~ Wild Horse in Paso Robles. Wild Horse is known for their outstanding collection of pinot noir. And, speaking of Sideways, it is quite ironic that we would discover a great merlot at a place known for pinot.
During our visit to the tasting room in 2011, we were introduced to the 2008 Unbridled Merlot. Having shared our thoughts on the varietal, it took some convincing from our host, Zach to give it a taste. We were so glad he did, and surprised him when we said we were taking a bottle with us!
This medium-bodied wine has scents of earthiness with hints of spice, flavors of dark cherry and soft tannins. It is a great food wine. We shared the bottle with my mom, appropriately pairing it with “mom’s lasagna”. It would also go very well with steak and stinky cheese. It retails for $35, and is available for purchase online through the winery direct. I can’t believe I am saying this about a merlot, but I wish we had another bottle!
Check this out:
While reading up on “The Sideways Effect”, I came across this fun, short video on the history of merlot from Gundlach Bundschu (oldest family owned winery in California) ~ winner 2012 Wine Spectator Video Contest. Note how they quietly call out Sideways!