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This was a very interesting blind lineup with a group I regularly taste with in Venice. The wines were generally mid-priced.

In the order tasted:

2007 Rombauer Merlot Carneros
Ripe cherry fruit w/tobaco & red bell pepper on nose; juicy on palate w/medium complexity, lots of oak on med-length finish. 88

2003 Pride Mountain Merlot Napa/Sonoma
Peppery redcurrant nose w/a hint of leather & earth; good intensity & structure, promising, still seems young. 91

2000 Chateau Boutisse St-Emilion
Leathery, aged cherry nose is rather funky; but very tasty on palate w/chewy structure & long savory finish. 92

2004 Chateau Sansonnet St-Emilion
Backward nose full of graphite; Old World, very dense, dour, needs time but great potential. 90

2005 Chateau les Trois Croix Fronsac
Med-purple hue; mulberry, cassis, cocoa & damp earth on nose; good fruit concentration over muscular tannins; long finish w/spice box notes. Needs time. 90

2005 Chateau Pipeau St-Emilion
Obviously Bdx on nose w/herbal, earthy, tight aromatics; tad thin, rough tannins, very backward. 86

2006 Havens Merlot Napa
Mint leaf/cherry aromatics w/some pepper; fruit kicks in over time on palate, w/good structure, but very dry & harsh finish. Overall, leaves a somewhat medicinal impression. 85

1999 Ruston Family Merlot Napa
Ripe, corrupt black cherry on nose; a mature, big New World style but a bit disappointing on finish, although showing plenty of sweet fruit. 87

2000 Twomey Merlot Napa
Funky fruit w/hint of honeysuckle on nose; very well-integrated on juicy, harmonious palate; drinkable w/tamed-down tannins & a lipsmacking finish. 90

1994 Chateau Corbin-Michotte St-Emilion
Plenty of cigar box, graphite & cassis on nose; rich & aged with lots of character but short-med finish. I was told this is currently available through K&L Wines. 89

2002 Kelham Vineyards Merlot Napa
Very primary boysen-earth nose, good complexity, balance & power. 91

2002 Twomey Merlot Napa
Toasty, ripe fruit & vanillin oak on nose; sweet briary black fruit on palate, good savory finish. 91

1995 La Petite Eglise Pomerol
Very stony/minerally nose leads to a mellow, traditional Bdx-style palate, pleasant but rather simple. 87

2007 Clos du Val Merlot Napa
Light, peppery/herbal nose; youthful & well-structured, echoing tasty vanillin oak, finishing w/good power. 87

2003 Rutherford Hill Merlot Napa
Floral & a touch volatile on nose; good toasty/plush mouthfeel, obviously New World w/tasty black cherry fruit. 88

And this last one was tasted non-blind as a "bonus" bottle:
2002 Provenance Merlot Mt. Veeder
Ashy cassis nose, rich & liquoreux on palate, bit of heat, cocoa & roasted coffee on finish. 91
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Oh, you're in Venice California, not Venice Italy. I was thinking, why would anyone drink American merlot in Italy? Smile

Thank you for those notes. Since you were tasting blind, can you make any comments on French vs. California merlot? It has been my impression that French merlot is more noticeably tannic and acidic, and more like a California cabernet than a California merlot.
Re-tasted the 2005 Les Troix Croix tonight, non-blind, without any other wines to compare it to. This wine was my contribution to the blind tasting in '11, and I'm revisiting another bottle now. As far as descriptors go, this bottle is basically consistent with the last one, but I would knock my score down to an 89, simply because this bottle is not delivering enough "X-factor" to warrant a 90.

In response to Javachip's comments about French vs. Cali Merlot: It's hard to generalize, because many of the Merlot-based wines from Bordeaux that I come across these days are showing the Michel Rolland influence of more oak, more ripeness, higher alcohol etc. Also, I have very few Right Bank wines older than 2005 in my collection, so in lieu of drinking properly aged Bordeaux, I've been popping my less-expensive/lower-pedigreed Right Bankers from vintages like '05 and '08, and finding that even those are showing powerful tannins and crying out for more bottle age at this point.

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