I unabashedly love a good California Merlot. The problem is, it's often hard to find a good one given Merlot's bad rap and tendency towards flabby overoaked plonk. So when I find a good one I feel like shouting from the rooftops. This is one such Merlot.
The bottle was a 2003 Raymond Reserve Merlot from Napa. It clocked in at 14.3% alcohol by volume, had a real cork closure, and was a gift from my Dad. My first thought on the wine was that it needed time to air, but after that it opened up into a really beautiful bottle of wine.
On the nose I found plum, blackberries, black pepper, chocolate, red cherry, and raspberries. It was a gorgeous combination of red and black fruit topped with chocolate. In the mouth I got more red fruit, cherries, raspberries, and then some plums and blackberries. The cherry was quite tart, like a fresh cherry pie.
The wine had plenty of structure and backbone to spare, I could easily see it holding up for many more years if you want to stash it away. It's a wonderful wine, especially at a price of what looks to be around $20.