Sonoma Mountain, CA; 14.5% ABV
$8 at the Oakland, CA, store on 8 Nov
I had barely noticed this wine, probably due to its unusual label. However, in reply to my review of the Pellegrini 2009 Cloverdale Ranch Merlot, GOWineLover stated: The 2003 Sawkar Merlot out right now is stellar, blowing this example out of the water in every way. This is pretty good but the Sawkar dominates it for the same price, a real example of what one can get out of the grape. It’s deep and concentrated, complex and balanced for 14.5% with softness to round it out. And DLuber concurred: Agree on the Sawkar. So far, it’s tied with the ’06 Michaud chard as the winner of the fall sale IMO. Opened one last night and it was kind of monolithic but still impressive. After a day with some air in the bottle, it’s opened up but is still remarkably fresh and primary for a ten-year-old wine, with loads of juicy fruit, ripe acidity, and tannic grip – I’m wondering if it’ll reward aging another decade. However, a dissenting voice was provided by poursomemore: The biggest disappointment was the 2003 Sawkar Merlot which was rich in spades but hugely flawed because of the concentration of prune juice flavors (tried two bottles). Anyway, I figured that the word was out that this wine was probably pretty good, and moved on to other bottles. Last night, I finally opened it. While I agree there’s a prune flavor, to me it’s quite mild and unobjectionable, and my reactions are pretty much those of GOWL and DLuber.
On opening, the wine reminded me of a sort of rough blueberry jam, although not really with the sweetness to be called “jammy.” After a couple hours in a decanter it had opened to show primarily red fruit, with complexities of darker fruits. While I liked it, I found it more puzzling than engaging.
I saved a half bottle with very little air, and a single-glass screw cap bottle with a good amount of air. The next day, the rest of the single-glass bottle was, as they said, more refined and tasty, with flavors of blackberry, blueberry, darker cherry, aromatic spice and perhaps tangy dried orange peel. I’m not sure I would say it could age for ten more years, but it’s clearly not going to be old anytime soon. So, I guess I’d say that if you want something to finish in one night, I’d pick the Pellegrini, but if you want something to drink over a few days or even age for a while in cool storage, go for this wine.