According to our approach in Spirit of Wine, good value wines are defined as those whose ratings are at least one and a half categories above their price ratings. Good quality plus modest price equals good value. California is a market that is better-known for its high-cost wines than it is for good-value wines. But here we sample two California merlots that meet the good value hurdle: Kelley Creek Merlot and Barefoot Merlot.
Review: Kelley Creek Merlot, Winemaker’s Reserve, 2005, is from the Schneider Vineyard of Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, CA. The Kelley Creek line, in fact, was created from an abundant harvest in 2005, which resulted in grapes becoming available from the vineyards of Sonoma County grape growers, Barbara and Dick Schneider. Kelley Creek is a tributary that runs through the Schneider’s property in Western Dry Creek Valley into Dry Creek.
In the glass, Kelley Creek Merlot, Winemaker’s Reserve, shows as medium dusty red. Aromas are modest and of deep fruit – a bit of alcohol “twang”, showing the 14.6 percent alcohol level.
Your first sip is even and balanced – almost regal in its conservative yet lively nature. There is a solid, fur-encrusted dark cherry flavor, perhaps a touch of cocoa. It resolves to a lengthy, quite pure, mellow finish with a touch of sweet acid. Not much tannin grit, but a solid, full-bodied offering.
Not quite the power to wow me with four stars, but I will add a plus to its three stars for its true class.
Find Kelley Creek at WineZap.
Review: Barefoot Cellars, which talks about wine “without the attitude”, also tends to deliver wine “without the information”. Its merlot is from unspecified, mixed California vineyards, made in an unspecified way, bottled in unspecified years in bottles with no vintage date (and no date at all on the bottle except the 2003 copyright date from Barefoot Cellars).
So despite these those limited credentials, let’s check out this “practically free” merlot: In the glass, it is medium-deep ruby red. Aromas are fruity, grapey and light, with just a hint of bramble or oak.
On the palate, the lightness rules, touching your palate easily with a soft raspberry center. It draws to a hint of cocoa on the relatively brief finish. At two stars, more in the nature of a house wine than an experience, but not objectionable in any way. Following a one-hour decant, the wine rounds and deepens a bit, offering a ripe cherry finish. This suggests the vintage may have been quite young, needing this air. I’ll add a plus for pleasant, making this two plus stars out of five, actually quite good value for the bargain price.
Find Barefoot Cellars Merlot at WineZap.