2001 Provenance Carneros Merlot

I figured that I had probably waited too long, but it wasn’t in my Cellartracker although I’d had the bottle for years. But I was in the mood for a Merlot because I wanted to try it with my seared duck breast dinner. I would usually open a Pinot, but was more in the mood for the depth of a Merlot on this cold winter night.

I was going to grab one of my Central Coast Merlots when I saw the bottle of 2001 Provenance Carneros Merlot resting on a shelf. When I saw the vintage, I was immediately a little worried because there’s nothing good that can out of a bottle that’s past its prime, right?

I opened the bottle and poured it into a glass. The color was beautiful – a beautiful deep red rimmed with garnet, which is just what you’d expect from a wine of this age. The nose was fragrant with earth, tobacco, chocolate, plums, and a touch of cedar.

And then I tasted it.


The earth elements were fully intact, complementing the wonderful nose. It wasn’t a bad drink, but its core is gone, the fruit only a distant echo. I had waited too long to drink it, and I was greeted by a mere wisp of its former self. I Merlot v Pinot3tried everything I could conjure up to bring it back; I decanted it, let it warm up a little, swirled it a lot, didn’t swirl it at all, etc. So I pronounced and went looking for another wine. I had to face the fact that this wine was past its prime.

I snagged a 2011 Seaglass Santa Barbara Pinot Noir that I had picked up at Cost Plus last weekend for $9.99 (on sale). In the glass, it was the color of a Rhodolite Garnet, Merlot v Pinot2with just enough translucency when held next to a light. It was very pretty in the glass.

I thought it was unusually light-bodied for a Santa Barbara Pinot as it felt more Oregonian in character, but then again, it was only ten bucks. It smelled like Pinot – raspberries, cherry coke, a touch of smoke and strawberries. It had a solid bracing acidity that cut through the fat of the duck breasts, so there was no complaint there. A nice wine – a Double Gold Medal winner in the 2013 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition – I still found that while I really liked it, I didn’t love it. Maybe that’s because I was still pretty disappointed over the Provenance and still had the echo of the gentle, departed Merlot lingering on my palate.




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