Ferrari Carano was founded in 1981 by Don and Rhonda Carano. Having run the famous Eldorado hotel, renowned for its spectacular wine list, for many years, they decided to plant their own vineyard, go to university to learn how to make wine, and try to build something new. Once their wines began receiving rave reviews in the Eldorado restaurant, word began to spread and before long they had a state of the art winery, known for producing smooth, fruity, food-friendly, bistro-style wines from their vineyard in the Dry Creek Valley. Wines like this Sonoma County Merlot.
What’s the Merlot story?
Merlot is one of the most disputed and discussed grape varieties, responsible for some of the most magical wines, such as Pomerol and St Emilion from Bordeaux, the great Cape red blends from South Africa, as well as wines from California too. But recently it has, sadly, become somewhat unfashionable as other grapes have ascended into the hearts and minds of wine drinkers.
Why is this?
When you ‘Google’ ‘What’s the problem with Merlot?’ you can’t help but notice myriad references to the ‘Sideways Effect’. We’ve mentioned this movie before with regard to how wonderfully it described Pinot Noir, leading to wine drinkers across the world waking up to the greatness of that grape; but it had the reverse effect on Merlot - roundly mocked for being simple and mass produced. It’s also a grape famed for being ‘smooth’, although the reality is that Merlot grapes often develop a lot of sugar once it gets hot, which leads to wines with high alcohol, a little residual sugar and low acidity. Smooth and rich, but can be a bit of a slog when handled without care.
With modern grape growing and winemaking technology, alongside a much greater knowledge of place and terroir, Merlot is starting to show up again, especially in California, where cooler climate regions provide the ideal environment for the grape to grow - slow ripening across the summer a la Bordeaux, which reduces that ‘sugar up, acid down’ characteristic, leading to wines with better balance and ageability.
This wine is a great example of a Merlot which is at once traditional and modern. A total crowd pleaser if ever there was one - put this on the dinner table and watch your guests rave about it - rich, sweet, slightly jammy and sappy fruit, but crucially joined by juicy acidity, vanilla from oak and a lofty, airy perfume character. It's simply a great wine to drink now - a generous, mouth-filling, hug-in-a-bottle wine with enough wine making acumen to make sure it remains proper too.