La Serenissima Merlot 2008

Merlot has some very fine moments but it is too often soft, lush and undemanding. This merlot is not one of those. This is merlot for men, a mysterious trek through deep, dark forests and teeth-rattling canyons. You have probably never had a merlot quite like this.

Modest in acidity and alcohol, the flavor work is performed by nicely concentrated dried fruit, earth, and assertive tannins, ripe and flavorful but drying.

The nose hits you with “grapey” aromas surrounded by forest floor, raisin, and soy, the dried fruit and soy becoming even more prominent on the palate. The tannins come on early and persist through a long finish that had me begging for water. A well-salted Tuscan steak would go nicely.

These are mostly oak-derived flavors, but the oak is well-integrated with no woody or vanilla notes that would imperil the impression of originality.

With a good, muscular mouthfeel and plenty of complexity, this wine would benefit from more softening in the cellar. I am really curious to see how those earthy aromas develop in the bottle.

Unfiltered, very small production, one of a kind. From the mountains near Ramona, one of San Diego County’s really promising wineries. This vintage may be hard to find but it is worth keeping an eye out for the next one.

Good: Earthy flavors

Bad: A bit tannic

Distinctive: A unique expression of Merlot

Price: Around $20.00

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