Wine Tasting: Merlot or “50 Shades of Red”

I think everyone should host (or participate in) a home wine tastings at least once a month. They can be whatever you want them to be… intimate and classy or a bit rowdier with pizza, hot wings and Mario Cart.  This time we opted for the second choice and made it work with two beautiful bottles of merlot. Before I embarked on this wine adventure, I didn’t realize how fun it is to discuss wine. Everyone has a slightly different take on each wine and it’s exhilarating (in a totally geeky way) when someone is like, “It’s almost a spicy taste.” and you’re like “EXACTLY!”

Merlot Tasting

The tasters (minus Alex and me)

This time I was a little more prepared than my last few tastings. I got an amazing wine bible from the library, The Ultimate Wine Companion edited by Kevin Zraly (buy it here). If you’re at all interested in wine, and I assume you are since you’re reading this, go read this book. I’m definitely putting it on my holiday wish list. I did some research about the wines I wanted and even printed out papers for everyone to write their notes about the two wines. I even made a little cheat card about merlot.

Merlot is my favorite red wine, but I didn’t really know much about it until yesterday. According to The Ultimate Wine Companion, Chile makes the best Merlots followed by California and Washington State. I decided to go for a Chilian Merlot and a domestic one for the tasting.



The Wines:
Sagelands Vinyards 2007 Columbia Valley Merlot

Casillero del Diablo 2010 Chilian Merlot

The Tasting:

Merlot Tasting

Merlot Tasting

We started with the Sagelands Merlot:


Dark, heavy legs, high viscosity, deep color.

wine tasting: look

“Strong legs. If this was an athlete, it would be a long distance runner.”-Sunil


“Deep, heavy, woody… It’s starting to feel like I’m writing a sex novel.” -Marek  “50 Shades of Red” -Sunil

“Doesn’t smell like it would taste good.” -Tanya

“Woody smell” -Mar


“Usually merlots are drier. This was less. I prefer it.” -Sunil

“No sweetness, a nice steady heavy yet subtle flavor. Aftertaste as good as first sip.” -Marek

“Acidity with end point of bitterness. The taste is experienced all over the tongue. No complex.” -Tanya

Notes & Ratings

Mar: 7  of 10

Sunil: 7 of 10 “I like this wine, I would buy it.”

Tanya: “Smooth and nice for a Merlot! Not my fav.” 6 or 7 of 10

Marek: “Heavy duty porch pounder in the Merlot category.”

Sagelands Merlot Rating

Heavy duty porch pounder!

Alex: 3.4 of 5 stars (he decided on a different rating system)

Elena: 8 of 10

Sunil reading

Sunil reading

Next we tried the Casillero del Diablo:


“Lower viscosity. ‘Faster’ legs = sprinter.” -Tanya

Dark burgundy, deep color


“Woody, balanced, smooth and light.” -Tanya

Spicy, light,


“Fruity, light and “delightful”, no real aftertaste.” -Tanya

“Taste hits the back of my tongue.” -Sunil

Notes & Ratings

Mar: 6/10 “Wine residue at bottle of the glass.”

Sunil: 6/10 “I prefer #1 because this is more bitter and light bodied. Still a good wine!” 

Tanya: 8/10 “Delicious and smooth.”

Marek: “Good, light merlot experience but not for huge bold flavors.”

Alex: 2.2 out of 5 stars

Elena: 7/10


The Sagelands Merlot got better overall ratings, but both were decent wines. The Sagelands was deeper, darker and generally more bold than the Casillero del Diablo and I think that made the latter taste a little watery in comparison. We tried another wine, a Spanish mix of Cabernet Savignon, Carménère, Caberet Franc and Syrah. When compared to the other two wines, it just didn’t hold up, making me wonder about the order of wines in a tasting. Would we have liked that one better if we had tasted it without tasting two, arguably better, wines first?

I think I will try more Chilean Merlots in the future, but certainly won’t discount the domestic ones.


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