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Senior Tim Fish joined the Wine Spectator staff in 2001. His tasting beat includes Oregon, Washington, California Zinfandel and Rhône-style reds, and U.S. sparkling wines.
Tim Fish

A Sleek Sonoma Merlot for Good Times

Sebastiani Merlot Alexander Valley 2007

Tim Fish
Posted: August 12, 2010

We all have our comfort foods, but what about comfort wines? Sometimes you’re just in the mood for a wine that you can trust. Sebastiani Merlot Alexander Valley is one of my comfort wines and always a standby on restaurant wine lists if the other Merlots are too pricey or simply unexciting.

The 2007 is just hitting the shelves, and I opened a bottle over the weekend as I grilled hamburgers. It was supple and sleek, but underneath was an appealingly elegant structure with black cherry and spicy anise flavors. What more could you want from a California Merlot that costs $24 and is often discounted by a few bucks at retail?

The main grape sources are two vineyards in Sonoma County’s northern Alexander Valley, one from a block owned by Sebastiani winemaker Mark Lyon and planted in 1973. Lyon blended in 13 percent Petit Verdot and a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Barbera to fill out the wine, and the results are impressive. That night I gave it a score of 91 points, non-blind.

WineSpectator.com members: Get scores and tasting notes for previous vintages of Sebastiani Merlot Alexander Valley.

• Plus, get our quick list of Top Values among California Merlots.

Chris A Elerick
Orlando, FL —  August 12, 2010 3:11pm ET
my stalwart comfort wine is the bodegas alto moncayo garnacha "veraton" campo de borja. consistent vintage over vintage, with enough layers of flavors and nuance to keep your attention without getting in the way of the other purposes of the night.
Tim Fish
Santa Rosa, CA —  August 12, 2010 10:33pm ET
Good call, Chris. Thanks for the comment.
Martin A. Cody
Chicago, IL —  August 15, 2010 11:03am ET
You're absolutely correct in the desire/need for a comfort wine. Not too dissimilar from the favorite suit that "fits like a glove"; the "goes anywhere" pair of shoes or the "yes-that-still-fits-me" sweatshirt from college, we all need a failsafe fallback. Thanks for introducing us to yours; I cannot wait to give it a try.

Martin A. Cody
Cellar Angels
Tim Fish
Santa Rosa, CA —  August 15, 2010 7:15pm ET
Thanks for the comment, Martin.

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