03 Nov Please The Palate Wine of the Week: Sullivan Rutherford Estate 2018 J.O. Sullivan Founder’s Reserve Merlot
Twenty years ago, a single line in a movie did a lot of damage to a specific grape variety. Remember the line, “I’m not drinking any f@$!ing Merlot?” Well, it is time to rethink this quote and with International Merlot Day coming up on November 7th, I opened up the Sullivan Rutherford Estate 2018 J.O. Sullivan Founder’s Reserve Merlot. Powerful, aromatic, lush and delicious, the Sullivan Rutherford Estate 2018 J.O. Sullivan Founder’s Reserve Merlot is the Please The Palate wine of the week.
Despite it being maligned, Merlot is one of the world’s most popular red wines. It is a grape that has been mass-produced. And, it is often overlooked for the more popular Cabernet Sauvignon. But, when Merlot is made with care and intention, it can be a beautifully elegant red wine. And that is how Merlot is made at Sullivan Rutherford Estate in Napa Valley.
Sullivan Rutherford Estate was purchased by Juan Pablo Torres-Padilla and a family group of investors in 2018. The leadership team, including vineyard manager Mike Wolf, saw the potential for high-end Merlot. While Rutherford is known for its Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot also thrives in the low-vigor, well-drained soils and the warm climate. The 26-acre estate, originally planted in 1972 by James O’Neil Sullivan, had some Merlot planted and recently four acres of prime Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon on the estate were replanted to Merlot.
At Sullivan Rutherford Estate, they treat Merlot with the same love and care as they do Cabernet Sauvignon. According to winemaker Jeff Cole, “if you treat Merlot with the same love and care as you do Cabernet Sauvignon, you can make a big, rich, robust, structured Merlot with layers of flavor and acidity.” And that is how I would describe the 2018 J.O. Sullivan Founder’s Reserve Merlot.
A blend of 80% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 8% Petit Verdot, the wine was aged for 21 months in 100% new French oak. Silky dark blue fruit aromas, baking spice, black pepper, and sweet tobacco notes give way to a full bodied and intense wine with elegant tannins, fresh acidity and a long finish.
If you are looking for a delicious Merlot, look no further than the 2018 J.O. Sullivan Founder’s Reserve Merlot, a serious and powerful wine suitable for aging. This wine retails for $250 and is a worthwhile investment. But, if you are not ready to invest $250 in a wine, try the Napa Valley Merlot made by Sullivan Rutherford Estate that retails for $75.