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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 Juicy Red for a Hearty Winter Soup

Bogle Merlot California 2008

Tim Fish
Posted: November 17, 2010

“What’s a good cheap Merlot?” That’s a question I get all the time. I wish I had dozens of wines to recommend every year, but it’s a challenge. Sure, retail shelves are stocked with California Merlots that sell for $15 or less, but most are barely worth it.

Merlot isn’t an easy wine to make, no matter how popular it might be with consumers. When it’s mass-produced, it is often simple and herbal and altogether boring. Not so the Bogle Merlot California 2008. It’s light and juicy, with tangy cherry and tomato leaf notes that firm up with spicy tannins.

I opened a bottle the other night as I made my son’s favorite vegetable soup. When the evenings turn cool, he tugs at me to make it, and it’s such an unfussy soup, hearty but easy to prepare. I haven’t used a recipe for years. I just buy whatever’s fresh at the market—carrots, leeks, onions, fennel, garlic, parsnips—and sometimes I add chicken or potatoes. Chicken stock, white wine, lots of fresh pepper and chopped tomatoes and basil tie the soup together. It’s not a particularly wine-friendly dish, but the Bogle complemented the spiciness of the soup and also offered zesty contrast. And at $9 a bottle it’s hard to go wrong. I rated it 84 points, non-blind.

WineSpectator.com members: Get scores and tasting notes for other Bogle bottlings, plus our quick list of Top Values among California Merlot.

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