I was sort of ambivalent about merlots, liking some, not liking others, until I saw the movie Sideways a few years ago. In that movie it was severely dissed. I have not purchased a merlot since. Am I being a snob, or is merlot just misunderstood?
It was a bit enigmatic when Miles, the wine snob played in the 2005 movie by Paul Giamatti, made his famous statement: “I’m not drinking any ^&%$#* merlot.” I guess he was referring to the fact that merlot, in the previous 10 years, had become so popular that growers started planting it everywhere – including some places where it didn’t do well. It was widely agreed that the wine had declined in quality.
Nationwide, sales of merlot slumped. And sales of pinot noir, the wine that Miles praised, soared.
“It’s amazing how much effect a little joke can have,” said Frank Ostini. It was his Hitching Post restaurant outside Santa Barbara, Calif., where the movie was filmed, and his “Highliner” pinot noir that got all the glory.
Well, in the time since, merlots have recouped some of their reputation, as growers figure out where they should grow and where they shouldn’t.
In fact, when Ostini came to the South Beach Wine & Food Festival last February, he brought bottles of his Highliner Pinot Noir to show off.
And he brought bottles of his latest new offering: a soft and fruity merlot.