- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Cartlidge & Browne, Merlot, California, 2001, $11

Finding good, value-priced California merlot can be a bit like looking for needles in haystacks. There’s a lot of empty wine out there. That’s why Cartlidge & Browne’s 2001 is such a gem. Marked by rich, ripe fruit flavors, a firm structure but gentle tannins, it offers real quality at an attractive price.

Tasty, affordable California merlot proves elusive because the grape has been planted in too many overly warm areas. In addition, growers frequently allow yields to get too large, and overcropping in inappropriate locales results in a bevy of sappy, unbalanced wines.

Merlot needs sunshine in order not to taste green and raw, but too much heat saps it of vitality. California vineyards that are far removed from the cooling influence of the Pacific Ocean thus rarely produce good wines. A great deal of merlot now on the market comes from vines planted in the state’s hot Central Valley.

Cartlidge & Browne source the fruit for their California merlot from coastal regions, resulting in a wine that manages to stay in balance while offering full flavor. A good partner for burgers and other summer party fare, it’s a wine to look for when you go shopping for the upcoming July Fourth weekend.

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