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January 31, 2011

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Great job - you really did a great job in capturing the personality of the wine. When I think of Morten's Meritage I tend to think of Bordeaux - in my opinion this wine has much more to do with that part of the world, in terms of style, then anywhere.

So here is my question - do wines like Ravines Meritage suffer by carrying the label Meritage as consumers think of California wines which are very, very different in terms of style and therefore expectations from the consumer?

Rick: If I had to compare this wine to those from another region (not my favorite thing) I'd definitely lean Bordeaux.

And that's an excellent question. I personally dislike the "Meritage" name for New York reds. To your point, I think it sets expectations for the wine and few NY wines can really deliver on that.

Plus, why pay to use the name?


Lenn/Evan: I was curious to get feedback from your devoted readers (and yourselves) regarding the Meritage question.

Hopefully we'll see a few more as it gives some good insight when it's time to make the decision whether or not to pull the name and go with something proprietary.

The Meritage name is easily recognizable to many people that walk into the winery I work with. I often hear, as general as this statement may sound, "Oh I love meritage wines"

There aren't many people that say "Oh I love NY reds" when I show them a NY red blend.

The term meritage is widespread here in Niagara, Canada. But it's confusing because not all producers use the term. Some call their Bordeaux blends Cab-Merlot (which essentially is the same thing) or give it a proprietary name. The meritages made in Niagara, like Finger Lakes, have no resemblance to Cali meritage. We cannot grow the kind of grapes they grow in California. That being said, I don't think consumers here expect that kind of a wine to be made here. The style is much closer to Bordeaux, a leaner style, a preferable style IMHO. Personally, I like the meritage term because consumers can quickly assume what they are getting adjusted to the style of the region. Whatever winemakers can do to make things easier for the consumer is a good thing.

I agree that using the term "Meritage" sets an expectation in the consumers mind which may be helpful however I personally dislike it. I'd prefer the term "Red Wine" appear with the blend make up either on front or back label. To me that's good enough. When I worked for Chaddsford as well as Wine Director for a local restaurant, I would never use the word. In my experience, a good number of folks didn't know the word. It was easier to describe the taste and the components making up the blend. I also think Lenn is right. Why pay or it?

I have no problem with the term Meritage, or its use. It speaks to a certain blending in a Bordeaux style. What I do find annoying is the Frenchifying of the word itself. According to my research, it's supposed to rhyme with Heritage.

Thank you all for your input. It is much appreciated.

I'm not sure what Morten will end up doing but I for one wouldn't miss the Meritage labeling and would probably favor a proprietary label with good back label info regarding the blend.

For those of you that do some collecting seriously consider a few bottles for your cellar...this wine will be beautiful in a few years.

thanks again.

Evan, it was great to read about the making of this wine after tasting it at WOTY. I was more impressed with this wine than perhaps any other we tasted that day; instead of tasting like a Finger Lakes red, it tasted like a good red wine - and stood up well in a flight of wines made in climates with a significantly longer growing season. From its structure to its elegant mouthfeel to its obvious potential for ageing, this Meritage (when you're a relatively high-profile winery, call it whatever you want and let the wine speak for itself, IMHO) really spoke to me as an example of New York progress. Well done, Morten and the Ravines team.

Meritage style blends can certainly be marketed successfully with or without the name. McGregor's Rob Roy blend seems to do fine. I tend to get most of my wine direct from local wineries, though. If I spent more time browsing in liquor stores, I might rely more on the familiar term "Meritage."
I'd be curious about people's answers to another question. How does the Ravines 2007 Meritage compare to the Ravines 2005?

Ryan - The 2005 and 2007 Meritages are quite different. Both are tremendous wines; it's too soon for me to say whether the '07 will reach the heights of the '05 to my palate. But as blends go, they're essentially reversed. The '05 saw a majority of cabernet franc. The '07 has more cabernet sauvignon.

Here's Morten describing why: "The decision for the '05 Meritage revolved around CF. In 2005, we tried
some longer skin contact times and increased P-O and P-D as we had some very ripe grapes to work with. The result was a larger tannin structure for the CF and therefore more of it suitable for the Meritage rather than the CF, where I seek as softer, fruit-driven character (think Chinon or Bourgueil)."

I'm not ready to pin down the '07 yet; it's been essentially a new wine each time I've tried it over a span of about 18 months. Each time it's been excellent, but I think it's settling into a nice stride now. The '05 is extremely reminiscent of a top-class Loire red for me, with some of the classic Finger Lakes nuances layered in.

Try the '07 and let me know what you think.

Having gone with and without the Meritage name, I have to say I think it works for cool climate wines. A proprietary name and a great back label work in the tasting room where wines are explained and sold, but in the stores the front label sells the wine. In a restaurant, the bottle isn’t seen until it gets to the table. Two things I really like about the name: First, it invites a comparison to Bordeaux, rather than California. Second, there really are not a lot of California Meritage wines as compared to varietal labeled wines like Cab or Merlot. $1 a case is a pretty low price to pay for a recognizable name (The $1/case caps out at $500).

Kudo's to Morton for another great wine. There really is no substitute for the time and patience he puts into his wines.

Remarkably, the 2007 Ravines Meritage has made an appearence in PA stores at an only slightly inflated price of $26. I've picked up 4 bottles which left 1 at the store where I bought it. It appears to have been fairly widely distributed to the premium stores across the state. Appears the typical store received one case. The 2008 Ravines riesling is also available at quite a few of the premium stores with most having 2 - 3 cases. Price on that is $17. Great to see some FLX wines from a smaller producer in the stores and without a major markup. Although the small markup to me undoubtedly means Morten had to take a pretty good cut at his end which is unfortunate.

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