Wine Review: Hope and Grace Merlot (there’s a political analogy)

Hawaii Delilah, Nov. 4, 2016

I was chatting with friends about some of my favorite Napa Valley wines and found myself being reminded of the 2011 Hope and Grace Merlot.  I want to note that Hope and Grace is one of my favorite boutique wineries in the Napa region. There is something to love in all their wines.  In this case,  I am looking at the 2011 Merlot.  Of note is the fact that it spent 22 months in French Oak and only 10 barrels of this wine were produced.


Ruby red in hue, this medium-bodied wine features fruit forward flavors of black cherry and blueberry, and is warmed by brown sugar and honey accents. Before one can be lulled into a sense of complacency on the palate, one’s senses are sparked by hints of pepper and spice, along with surprising aromatic intimations of bay leaf, rose, and violet. The base notes of chocolate and tobacco make it clear that the Hope and Grace Merlot embodies substance.

I want to emphasize the fact that this is not an immediately accessible wine, and in fact the combination of notes dance across the palate not so much like a waltz, but like a challenging and intimidating, yet well-orchestrated tango. It is difficult. Complex. Structured.

It is at that moment of realization that one is reminded that this is a Merlot — a wine selection one does not normally admit to liking these days. Merlot enjoyed its apex decades ago in the 1990s, but lost its cachet due to a line in the movie, Sideways, when Paul Giamatti’s character refused to drink Merlot, uttering the words: ” No, if anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am NOT drinking any fucking Merlot!”  That moment in popular culture appeared to have shaped public opinion.  Since that time, Merlot wines have lost their value on the market for years as a result.  It is actually called the “Sideways effect.”

Yet after a glass of this phenomenal offering of Merlot by Hope and Grace, I found myself screaming to myself, “Why is this wine not in everyone’s wine collection?”

I could not imagine loving it when it was uncorked, but it blew me away anyway. Indeed, it has all the structure one wants in a sophisticated red wine with personality  and depth of character. And as the wine maker reminded me, it is best appreciated over time.   Let me repeat that: It is not  an accessible wine  but once you have had some time to savor it, you appreciate its finer qualities, and by the  end of the glass, you are blown away. And in THAT revelatory moment, I realized that the Hope and Grace Merlot is the Hillary Clinton of wines.

Cheers! And Viva Hillary!

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