Oh it’s time for another one of my fav boutique winery posts. This time I’m keeping it local with my Silicon Valley Three Arches Winery, celebrating their amazing Meritage. I believe Three Arches’ Meritage was the first of this blend I’d ever had, so, yes it holds a special place in my heart. But after having expanded my wine-tasting world, I have to say that Three Arches’ version not only stands up to, but stands out from the other big players in this field.

About the Wine: Meritage 101 — because I honestly didn’t know this until the kind folks at Three Arches told me…

Meritage is the word we Cali-kids can use to describe a Bordeaux-inspired blend because you can’t call something a Bordeaux or a Bordeaux blend unless its, well, from Bordeaux. Similarly, though, winemakers who create a Meritage must register with California-based Meritage Alliance for a “Meritage license.” Unlike in France, there aren’t any hard, fast rules regarding winemaking or winegrowing, but a red Meritage must contain at least two of the following varietals: Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, St. Macaire, Gros Verdot, and Camenére. (White Meritage has its own list).

Oh, and PS, the Meritage Alliance specifically states that the proper pronunciation of Meritage rhymes with “heritage.” (Which kind of means I say it wrong on most days…)

Three Arches Meritage consists of 63% Merlot, 21% Malbec, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Cabernet Franc — all of which came from various vineyards throughout the Santa Cruz Mountains.

13.5% ABV

Flavor Profile: I will make a primary note here: do not be put off if you pull the cork and see excess tannins around the neck. This happened to me and I was worried about excessive tannic texture and the need to decant — no need, no worries.

This Meritage is a gorgeous dark magenta in the glass with initial aromas that just bust of plump grapes and black cherries with a bit of a “stinky” dried fruit (I’m smelling dates at the moment) undertone. (BTW: I mean that in a positive light…like a sturdy “stinky” cheese). The aromas are quite dark and your brain is primed for something dark and dirty (especially if you saw those tannins in the neck)….

Take you first sip and let those luscious fruits just overwhelm your tongue. Grapes, dark cherries, yes, but there are lighter, brighter fruits involved (is that raspberries, boysenberries, I detect?). Secondary flavors: a bit of cola, a bit of dark leafy herbaceousness, a distinct sandy-soil minerality, and a kind of metallic taste, that I soon realized is the tinge of black olive.

For a red wine, the acidity is actually quite involved (I’d say medium to high), which accounts for that burst of initial fruit flavors. The tannins are surprisingly low (I’d say a solid medium): it’s just the right amount to make this a full bodied wine and give the taste a solid finish, but not enough to scratch the tongue and certainly not enough to chew on.

Overall, Three Arches Meritage red blend has a smooth mouthfeel from start to finish, is well-balanced in regards to fruit-acid-tannins, and is — most pleasantly surprisingly — refreshing.

Food Pairing: Here’s the fun part. I don’t know if it’s the strong role of the acid, that bit of “stink,” the “tinge” of black olive, or just the nature of a good Meritage, but this wine pairs perfectly with roasted veggies — specifically the more cruciferous (like asparagus or brussel sprouts).

The first time I enjoyed Three Arches Meritage was with roasted pork loin on top of a mixture of roasted veggies, consisting of brussel sprouts, heirloom potatoes, red bell pepper, and “sweet” or yellow onion, garnished with a bit of black olives and feta.

The second time I enjoyed this wine I had it with a fig, prosciutto, and havarti panini.

Suffice it to say, this wine is best served with a bit of salty meat, an off-hard/off-stinky cheese, a hint of sweet, and an open mind and heart.

More Info: If you haven’t read my previous Three Arches reviews please do so. If there’s one thing I can say about them it’s that this tiny winery creates big bold wines — both whites and reds. So if you like wine that busts with flavor from start to finish, these are the wines for you. The Three Arches Meritage 2013 goes for $24 on the Three Arches Winery site (though it tastes like an $80 bottle if you ask me), but wine club members receive 20% — and when it comes to boutique wineries like Three Arches (or Leverage, or Prager, or Oso…) it’s totally worth it to join the club — you just can’t find this quality on shelves!

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