"Merlot is often still a tough sell."
That's according to Ed Killian, the winemaker behind our wine-of-the-week winner - the Souverain, 2008 Sonoma County Merlot at $16.
"It's not a tough sell because merlot can't make great wine, but because people have a lot of choices these days," he said, "and when merlot was really popular, (the California wine industry) often made the mistake of putting inferior wine in the bottle."
But there's nothing inferior about the Souverain, 2008 Sonoma County Merlot. It's an elegant merlot with good structure and layered aromas and flavors. It has notes of black raspberry, vanilla, herbs and cracked black pepper, with a lingering finish.
The house style in making merlot, according to Killian, has always been "fruit first, oak second."
Killian said he's a good fit for crafting merlot because he likes working with Bordeaux varietals, and he has found winemaking across the board intriguing since his college days.
"I started fermenting grape juice in my bathtub in college so to say I had a passion for the business might be a bit of understatement," Killian joked.
"Beyond just liking the world of wine in general, I had the technical and biological/chemical background for it... and I've always been a 'do-it-yourself' kind of guy."
Killian made wine at Lambert Bridge Winery in Dry Creek Valley for 10 vintages before moving to Chateau Souverain in 1992. The brand changed to Souverain in 2006 when the Chateau Souverain building in Geyserville was sold to Francis Ford Coppola. Souverain relocated to Asti.
How do you get people to take a chance on merlot?