Rick Jamail says Merlots work best blended with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Rick Jamail says Merlots work best blended with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Daniel Kramer

Five Wines That'll Blow Your Mind

Ever since the movie Sideways, Americans have been drinking more Pinot Noir and less Merlot. Are we crazy to be taking wine advice from a geek named Miles, who, by the end of the movie, ends up drinking out of the spit bucket? This week we asked Rick Jamail, the wine education manager for Republic National Distributing, to comment — and to pick Five Wines That'll Blow Your Mind.

Rick Jamail: I have tasted some pretty good Pinot Noirs from Oregon lately, but they are a little pricey. Don't get me wrong — I am no Merlot fan — except in the Medoc, St. Emilion, Pomerol and Graves. Merlot seems to work best blended with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, which tones down the fruit and adds acidity and tannins. Here's my five picks:

Under $15


favorite wines

Delicato Shiraz


Most large California wineries make commercial wine that is okay for everyday drinking because of the reasonable price. But the Delicato family has offered up a jewel with this inexpensive Shiraz. Loads of blueberries and spicy fruit, with alcohol levels that aren't off the charts. You can get it for under $6 a bottle!

Under $30

2004 Capcanes Mas Donis

Montsant, Spain

This is a blend of 85 percent Grenache and 15 percent Syrah, aged in French and American oak for eight months. What makes the wine unique is the soil and climate of the region. The soil is poor and stony and barely covers a bedrock layer of granite and slate. The stress of the poor soil and the hot days and cool nights in the summer produce amazing fruit with intense flavor and excellent acidity.

Under $60

2004 Gramona Gessami

Penedes, Spain

This phenomenal white blend is 60 percent Muscat of Alexandria, 30 percent Sauvignon Blanc and 10 percent Muscat de Frontignac. It reminded Robert Parker of a White Hermitage, only lighter in body. The flavor is a perfect balance between acidity and fruit, and the nose is redolent of peaches, apricots and floral aromas that might remind you of jasmine and honeysuckle. The dry finish makes this a great seafood wine. And it's not Chardonnay.

Under $100

2003 Chteau La Fleur

St. Emilion, France

La Fleur is the best vineyard on the Chteau Dassault property. To compete with the “Garagist movement” (a group of French boutique winemakers), many big chteaux have given their best vines a separate chteau name. This is a little confusing to consumers, but the wine is fantastic. The grapes are a typical St. Emilion blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The extremely low yields make for concentrated fruit and a very special wine.


2000 Chteau Cheval Blanc

St. Emilion, France

This is the wine Miles was drinking at the end of Sideways in a hamburger joint out of a Styrofoam cup. He ranted against Merlot throughout the whole movie, and what does he drink at the end? Cheval Blanc 1961 — a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc.

Which brings us to the monumental 2000 Cheval Blanc. This vintage is being compared to the legendary 1921, 1947 and 1964 Cheval Blanc. The 2000 is 53 percent Merlot and 47 percent Cabernet Franc. Almost port-like in its intensity, the 2000 will last for 40 or more years if properly cellared but is very drinkable even today. However, the price is staggering: $1,500 per bottle, if you can find it. Only 72,000 bottles were made in the 2000 vintage.


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