- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 8, 2004

Bonterra, Merlot, Mendocino County, 2001, $19

Offering seductive plum and red berry flavors, this Northern California merlot supports the taste of bright fruit

with fine-grained tannins and a firm but pliant structure.

The result is a completeness or complexity rare in New World merlots.

The wine isn’t cheap, but at less than $20 a bottle, it outperforms many that cost two or three times as much.

The grapes for this Mendocino County wine were grown organically, meaning without any man-made herbicides or pesticides. Whether organic grapes result in inherently better wine is a subject best left for another day, but there can be no doubt that the meticulous attention required for organic viticulture tends to lead to wines that are crafted just as carefully. This merlot is just that, as no component in it overpowers any other. Balance and harmony provide its charm.

Although certainly capable of aging gracefully for five years or so, Bonterra’s 2001 merlot tastes delicious right now. (It would be a great partner for grilled steak or beef fillet at an elegant summer dinner.) A platinum-award winner at the recent Critics Challenge competition in San Diego, this wine is as fine a California merlot as I’ve tasted in quite a while.

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