I believe that part of the “art” of good wine-making is finding the right balance which will create an interesting yet enjoyable experience for those who drink the resulting brew. There are so many variables, I’m glad I’m not tasked with the job! As a wine enthusiast, I liken it in my own mind to the balance necessary in making a song fun to listen to. Of course, you have to start with good material. But what instruments are chosen to bring it to life and how much of each instrument is highlighted in the final mix can make a big difference in the way a song is perceived.
Take, for instance, the difference between these two versions of the same pop tune —
Now don’t get excited about full-blown studio production versus at-home solo efforts. I know, already! Here’s the deal: I can appreciate both, but I definitely have a preference. I believe it’s similar with wines – most especially blended wines. Although, admittedly, the winemaker has somewhat less control than the studio engineer. Which brings me to this Meritage.
Winemaker: Hayman & Hill
Varietal: Red Blend
Appellation: Monterey County, California
Notes: This red is a blend of 48% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Malbec, 5% Petite Verdot, 1% Cabernet Franc. It was a dark burgundy in the glass. On the nose I got a lot of musty earthiness with some dark berry and mocha notes. On the palate I found some very dark berry (black currant), plenty of woodiness, heaps of barnyard, and some little hints of mocha here and there. Light tannins brought a bit of eucalyptus to the finish. With oxidation, the wood receded some to the benefit of a tad more dark berry. But the barnyard and woodiness remained by-in-large the primary takeaway from my experience with this wine. Alcohol is at 13.5%.
It reminded me of another wine I tried several years ago. I had the opportunity to go on a private tour of a boutique California winery. (Colleagues of mine arranged it. I’ve got no juice. lol) Anyway, our group of work colleagues were treated to a taste of a very young, not-ready-for-public-consumption Cabernet Franc. It was explained that they would use it in a few years to blend into the Cabernet Sauvignon, adding some complexity – especially to the bouquet. The scents and the flavors of that immature Cabernet Franc were crazy overwhelming. And THAT is how I felt about this Meritage from Hayman & Hill. You may disagree. That’s OK. Maybe I had a bad day on this one, but …
Adding fuel to my fire, I recently had another Meritage – the 2009 Mulderbosch Faithful Hound from South Africa. In this case the blend was 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 8% Petite Verdot, 8% Cabernet Franc and 3% Malbec. Alcohol at 13.7%. Same grape varietals; different mix and grape sources; very different experiences. The Faithful Hound was settled with plenty of ripe fruit, vanilla and spice. It also had some earthiness, but it was more an underlying foundation over which sat the fruit and spices. Tannins were very mild, so the Mulderbosch is a definite “drink now” selection in my book. The Hayman & Hill, on the other hand, I feel needs another year or two in the cellar to see if it will even out a bit. Tannins aren’t going to support long years in the bottle, I think. But for me, this is a “hold” selection.
Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur. See “About” for the full disclaimer.