2002 Sterling Vineyards Merlot

Sterling Merlot Doesn't Quite Hold Up

Before the recent wedding, at which I’d had my first two Sterling Vineyards wines, I’d never heard of the place. Which, as it turns out, puts me in something of a minority, since they produce, oh, just this side of a half million cases of wine every year.

But I’ve found it’s often good to go into something knowing as little as possible. I tasted this Merlot not knowing if this was some small craft winery and the bride and groom knew the winemaker personally, had visited the vines themselves, and had maybe even picked some of the grapes.

One taste, however, and that notion went out the door. This is California Merlot exactly as you expect it. Which, might be a great thing. For me, it was more than a little boring.

The wine is beautful in the glass, a rich ruby red you can’t see through, but that light dances with around the edges. On the nose was a smattering of black fruit, but subtle, and a heaping nostrilfull of oak-imparted flavors (mostly of oak itself, but also some chocolate and some tobacco).

The wine is medium-bodied with soft tannins sure to insult no one. Some sour red cherry and lots of coffee on the palate. Nothing really screams out to me, and there is little here that could possibly offend. In other words, it’s probably the perfect wine for an event like a wedding, where lots and lots of (potentially very different) people need to be pleased.

But for you? For your dinner table? I’d probably pass.

Verdict: 79/100

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