Friday, January 6, 2012

Wines I'm Drinking: 2001 Chateau Julien "Private Reserve" Monterey County Merlot

Tonight I tasted the 2001 Chateau Julien "Private Reserve" Monterey County Merlot. I knew nothing about Chateau Julien and I have little experience with Monterey County Merlot. I chose this wine simply because it was inexpensive and--being called a "Private Reserve"--I was hoping it was solid enough in its youth to have stood up to the 11 years it's been in bottle. Brief tasting notes follow.

Pretty to look at. Moderately deeply hued, but not at all a dark, inky wine. Garnet-tinged edges. Showing its age. Herbal on the nose, suggesting red vermouth or bitters. Not a lot of fruit scent, but attractive nevertheless--although I suspect many wine drinkers used to young California wines would find the nose rather foreign. Distant suggestions of licorice. Something reminiscent of sun-dried tomatoes. With time, gained some floral scents. Overall, rather delicate on the nose. My first impression on the palate was disappointment, but the wine got better as I lingered over it. It would be easy to dismiss this as past its prime--which it is. Clearly it's tired. There's only moderate fruit left and the attack seems weak--but it has its charms. For example, there are some good plummy flavors on the mid-palate and the finish is long enough and just complex enough to keep things interesting, despite a lack of real body and presence. In particular, the finish has an attractive nuttiness, a hint of sweetness, and delicate tannins that I enjoyed. If you like your wines bold, brash, fruity, and alcoholic, skip this one, but, if you like the sort of flavors typical of mature wines, you might give it a try. At only $5.99 a bottle at Grocery Outlet in Santa Rosa, I'm not complaining. The current vintage (2008) sells for $42 a bottle on the winery's website. I was just in Monterey last week. I wish I'd known. I might have visited the winery to try some of this producer's more recent efforts. (Although, the fact this is for sale at Grocery Outlet, heavily discounted, may say more about the storage of this particular batch of wine rather than the wine itself.)

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