According to the Meritage Alliance,
Meritage wines are provocative red or white wines crafted solely from specific “noble” Bordeaux grape varieties and are considered to be the very best wines of the vintage.
So what does that mean?
It used to be okay to say that blends of wines originating from the Bordeaux AOC could be called “Bordeaux blends.” Well, the Bordelaise took offense to that and ensured that the only ones who could use the word “Bordeaux” was the Bordelaise themselves.
Introducing Meritage. (Rhymes with Heritage, by the way).
Meritage means that wineries who use the classic, i.e., “noble,” Bordeaux grapes in the wine blends (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Carmenere) can, by having membership in the Meritage Alliance, can so name their wines.
I naively thought that only California wines could hold that name to their wines, and then I went to Southern Oregon last year. While the lion’s share of Meritage-designated wines are in California, Meritage wines exist in 28 states – including Oregon, West Virginia, Texas, and Arizona – and six countries, including France (non-Bordeaux), Israel, Mexico, and Argentina.
One of the wineries I visited was the Hobbit-esque named Troon Vineyard, where I tasted several of their wines and was immediately entranced. One was Old Vine Meritage, a blend of five of the classic grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.
In a word, luscious.
Deep, dark, rich, extracted, and almost Petit Sirah-like in color, this Meritage could never be confused with a Bordeaux wine. It absolutely screams New World.
On the nose, there’s red and black berry fruit, plums, cocoa, and just a touch of espresso. The tannins are nicely rounded, and the acidity is quite tame. Despite its lusciousness, the ABV is only 13.5%. I paired this wine with a small, spice-rubbed ribeye, slowly poached baby beets, and Meyer lemon-drizzled avocado with a separate bowl of California mixed organic rice.
OF COURSE it was good! It’s what I do. I don’t review bad wines and don’t pair wines and food randomly or carelessly. At $35.00, the 2012 Troon Meritage can be both a food wine or a sipping wine.
As an aside, someone asked me if I would be pursuing either/or a Master Sommelier or Master of Wine designation. I answered in the negative. Why?
Because despite their widely divergent foci (or focuses, for those who are not Latin-inclined), they still require the candidates to be ultimate generalists. Frankly, that’s not me.
While learning and having as much knowledge as possible is a good thing, I realized some time ago that my focus is in my own back yard. Now that Nevada is finally creating great wines, along with the already legendary wines of California, Oregon, and Washington, I realized that pursing the ultimate advanced certifications would take more time studying in areas than I am willing to give.
Troon Vineyard is an example of the possibility of what wines can be. I love both Old World (Europe) and New World (everybody else, although South Africa is arguing the point), which means that depending upon the meal, the origin of the wine may or may not matter. Wine is, after all, liquid food.
Troon represents what wines of the New World do best – showcasing fruit, depth, lusciousness, and character. On the other hand, the Old Worlds wines showcase food-friendly, complex wines of incredible nuance, depth, and intimacy (did I really say that?). While there are individual bad wines out there – and goodness knows I’ve sampled my fair share of vinous dreck – modern technology, coupled with the love and passion of the wine grower and wine maker, ensure that in whatever world we prefer, the wines are going to be good.
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