This Washington state Merlot, from Icicle Ridge Winery, is a pleasing deep garnet color. My plans to visit Icicle Ridge Winery over the weekend fell through, so I opened a bottle of the Icicle Ridge 2007 Merlot to ease my sorrows.

IRW Merlot

IRW Merlot 07

The aromas of this wine tantalize with dried cherry, blackberry and red plums and entice with cocoa and milk chocolate.  Predominately, I am reminded of a high quality chocolate covered cherry as I inhale.  The sweetness on the nose is pleasantly contradicted with refined fruit and bright acidity on the palate.  For an 07 the mouth feel is surprisingly smooth, which the wine makers attribute to the 15 months in neutral oak barrels. On the nose, the milk chocolate was more distinctive but the palate is all about the cocoa!  I get tart red cherry on my tongue and a nice tannic grip adds to the experience. The finish is bright and memorable.

Although the aging in neutral oak allows this 07 Merlot to be enjoyed alone now, I personally prefer a little more age and complexity in my sipping wines. The high acidity and moderate tannins make this a great Merlot to accentuate a dinner with friends. We tried pairing it with a couple of dishes but the resounding winner was a lamb roast stuffed with spinach, mushroom and feta. This Washington Merlot had the body and tannins to support and enhance the richness of the lamb roast. The lamb smoothed out the edge of the tannins and acidity, resulting in a velvety mouth feel. That velvet and the lingering finish on this wine had us slowing down our eating so we could truly savor both the lamb and the wine. Another thing that I really appreciate about this wine is that it is only 12% alcohol, making it even more food friendly!

The Icicle Ridge Winery 07 Merlot is a wine that can be enjoyed now but has all of the components to age well. I wish that I had another bottle to lay down and see how it evolves. This is their regular Merlot and should not be mistaken for their 07 Reserve Merlot that continues to haunt me. Icicle Ridge respects the reserve designation and the Icicle Ridge 07 Reserve Merlot warrants the title with its exceptional complexity and balance.