TN: Merlot night, with Pomerol, Fronsac, CA, SA plus a VP

Last night was my turn to host our little international Dobbs Ferry tasting group. Theme was "we are drinking some f*&^ing Merlot", with the criteria being solely that it was at least 50% Merlot. I furnished some red wine friendly cheeses (Comte, Tomme de Savoie, Vacherin, & Quickes's Cheddar), a mild garlicy sausage, and some pork/mushroom pate. Wines were mostly blind.
First up: Some earth on nose, ok blackberry and black plum fruit, a little short on the finish. Slightly lifted nose at first. I guess a lesser St Emilion, maybe a 1999? Nope, it's the 1998 Ch. de Carles (Fronsac). Seems pretty mature, but does improve a bit over evening. Seems more advanced than a bottle I had a year ago. B
Next up was my wine, the 1982 Ch. de Sales (Pomerol). I didn't guess. :) I had a backup bottle of Pomerol, as 24 is certainly pushing it for de Sales, but this was a pleasant surprise and the '90 Bourgneuf wasn't needed. Good color with only slight bricking, round red plum fruit accented with leather, forest floor, and tea aromas. Holds up well for a couple of hours, only last taste is really fading; I had actually expected it to fall apart it within 30 minutes in decanter even if it was tasty. Nowhere near the size and power you'd get from a higher level '82 Pomerol, but a nice fully mature Right Banker. Group WOTN. B+/A-
Next wine was a little puzzling. Ripe red fruit and vanilla-y oak make me lean towards New World, but a pleasant earthiness seems more Bordeauxish. I'm confused and reluctant to make a guess, but eventually say maybe a modern Right Bank satellite like a Lalande de Pomerol. Nope, it's a country I never considered, the 1997 Meerlust Merlot (Stellenbosch). B
Ok, #4. At first I think I get a little brett on the nose, but that blows off leaving a nose primarily of oak. Lots of chocolately oak over very round red plum fruit. Big but round tannins, the oak gradually subsiding to let some of the fruit come through. Reminds me a little of Montiano though less plush, I ask if it's the Falesco Merlot , when told no I guess Napa. It's the 2002 Charles Creek "Miradero" Merlot (about 50/50 Napa/Sonoma, all Merlot). A little low-acid for my tastes, I think others liked a bit more. B/B-
Alex was late arriving, his wine wasn't wrapped, so I guessed it was the 1998 Ch. Rouget (Pomerol) without even tasting. :) Lovely structured midweight, dark berry fruit a little coffee edge. Gets better as evening progresses, tannins are present but quite fine. Very nice wine, I only wished I had some red meat with it (but cheese and sausage were ok). B+/A-
For a finisher, a half of 1983 Dow Vintage Port. Ripe and raisiny, with a bit of allspice and cinnamon. Good texture, not cloyingly sweet, ripe tannins. Our German member had been talking of stollen earlier in evening, in some ways this was stollen in a glass. Betsy arrived late to join us for a taste- 2 ounces each is perfect for me and Port. I quite like the Dow- is this my last one? Damn. A-
Fun night. Nice to show folks there is Merlot beyond the basic "give me a glass of Merlot."
Grade disclaimer: I'm a very easy grader, basically A is an excellent wine, B a good wine, C mediocre. Anything below C means I wouldn't drink at a party where it was only choice. Furthermore, I offer no promises of objectivity, accuracy, and certainly not of consistency.
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About 3 weeks ago I opened the 2001. Mostly plum on the nose and mostly plum on the palate, decent length for a wine at this level but quite tannic. Little change after 1.5 hours in the decanter. Vacu-vin til following evening. It had opened up a bit and the tannins were somewhat muted. Perhaps a couple more years would have helped?
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I haven't tried any 2001 Fronsacs lately,but wouldn't surprise me if more structued ones are a bit shut down. I find Fronsac to be a little more long-lived than Lalande de Pomerols or Cotes de Castillons are a very gross generality.
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