Ghost Pines Merlot 2005 ~ 89 pts ~ $19.99

Hosting a wine party can be fun and informational, if you make wine the main event and purpose of the party. A month or two ago I hosted an outside wine party at the house, but what was going to be a sniffing, swirling and glass-gazing extravaganza actually turned into just a regular house party. Now, let me clarify. I absolutely loved the party. We had a bunch of visitors, and everyone had a great time. The wine, however, was secondary. This event actually accentuated the purpose of wine – more often than not it should not be the focus of attention. Wine helps bring people together, much in the same way beer brought our president and his visitors together. While this blog is indeed focusing on wine for wine’s sake, I also try to give a picture of what surrounds the wine. Tasting wine, critiquing it, giving it a score is helpful to gauge how to use wine appropriately. So, having a wine party, where scores are given, may be left for the wine enthusiasts rather than with people who don’t care whether they have a glass of chardonnay or a Bud Light in their hand.

107017I now continue with the current wine review: Ghost Pines’ Merlot, Vintage 2005. I bought this wine, honestly, because 1) it’s a Merlot, 2) it has a cool label, and 3) it cost $20. This was one of the wines for the party, and I wanted to perform an experiment – does a mid-priced wine with a cool label taste better than a cheaper wine? So, all in all I bought this wine without expecting much…but perhaps hoping for something special?

Let me say, however, that I am usually not a big fan of Merlot. I do tend to try it, and usually enjoy it for its fruitiness. But it’s because of its fruity flavor that I tend not to sway toward it. If I want fruity, I’ll have a white wine. In my reds I want something dark, sometimes bitter, earthy. So it is in this revealing that I say I really enjoyed this wine. With flavors of pepper, dark cherry and berry, it definitely had some substantial fruits, but I was pleasantly surprised by the pepper taste that is usually found in a Cab Sauv. Without being too dramatic, this wine gives a pleasant walk through Pepper-land, followed by Fruit-land shortly after. Very nice indeed.

Now for some background. Is it any surprise that this wine is made by Gallo? Well, actually it’s made by Louis Martini, but he, in fact, is owned by Gallo (who isn’t nowadays?) Martini began his first winery in 1933 with great success, having produced his first family wine much earlier in life and receiving an education in wine making from Italy. He prides himself on getting grapes from both Napa and Sonoma Valleys, a mark which, in my limited experience, I have not seen. That Martini draws from two major wine making valleys may pigeonhole him as dipping his finger in two Disney parks – they may be different but they’re still Disney: big, expensive, internationally known, and in some ways too big for its own good. I usually like to try wines outside the Napa culture, for the very reason that it seems to be saturated by wine. Yet, it is refreshing to see someone be a little creative and try mixing the best of both worlds.

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