Niagara, you had me at Merlot

On Sunday November 7th, it was International Merlot Day! As we’ve done before, Carl’s Wine Club members and I went live on social media for a crazy five hours, searching for the holy grail of Canadian Merlot.



This time around I tasted 27 different Merlots live, with 22 from Canada and 5 from around the world – mainly to compare and see where Canadian Merlot’s stand in terms of taste, quality, and price to quality ratio.


You might be wondering, why would we do this?? Well, the reason behind this “irrational” idea was to draw attention to Canadian Merlot, and the fact that Canada is indeed a “World Class” wine-producing country.



There is a myth present from Canadians and International wine lovers alike that we cannot grow this Bordeaux grape varietal to full ripeness on a consistent basis because our climate is too cold and the growing season is too short.


I wanted to show the world how good our Merlots are, and that we can compete with Bordeaux, Napa Valley, Washington State, Tuscany, and Chile…at a better price point.


… and Guess WHAT? The results were very impressive.


The quality of our Canadian Merlot is absolutely amazing, and we need not envy other Merlot producing countries when it’s time to showcase World Class Merlot.





How about our Niagara wineries? How did they fare in this extensive line-up among other top producers?


I can tell you right now that Niagara producers came up right at the top and proved that the Niagara Terroir, especially the Twenty Mile Bench, is a very well-suited piece of land for Merlot and can deliver spectacular results on any given vintage. Very impressive!



Here are 5 of my top Niagara Merlots that are all rated 90 points or higher:






2016 Icellars ”Arinna”


VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake

50% Merlot, 29% Cab Sauv, 17% Cab Franc, 4% Malbec

94pts Carl Wine Club




Big, bold, juicy, concentrated, and complex, this wine showcases some major long-term potential. Dark fruits and sweet oak spices are on display here. The texture is silky and velvety, the tannins are starting to soften, and the finish is extremely long and spicy.



Winery Price: $45




2018 Sue-Ann Staff “Mountain Bell” Merlot


VQA Niagara Peninsula

100% Merlot

93pts Carl’s Wine Club




Elegance, purity, and complexity are at the forefront of this wine. A beautiful floral aspect delivers some unique notes of violets, mint chocolate, fresh herbs well integrated with dark cherry, plum, and vanilla. The finish is soft, earthy, and very long. There is so much to discover in this wine!



Winery price: $39.95





2019 Marynissen Estates “Platinum Series” Merlot


VQA Niagara Peninsula

100% Merlot

92+pts Carl’s Wine Club





A very young wine with tremendous potential if you can keep it in the cellar for a couple of years. It’s already showing an incredible softness, while the red cherry and raspberry are dominating the palate. The acidity lifts this wine to another level, and the silky texture is the most attractive feature of this wine.



Winery price: $44.95






2017 Megalomaniac “Bigmouth” Merlot


VQA Niagara Peninsula

100% Merlot

92pts Carl’s Wine Club





Balance, softness, and value came to mind when I tasted and re-tasted this wine. The dark fruits are intense, but the acidity keeps everything fresh. The tannins are still there, but the texture brings an amazing mouth feel. I like the earthy finish and the quality is outstanding for $25.00.



Winery Price: $24.95






2019 13th Street Merlot


VQA Creek Shores

100% Merlot

90pts Carl’s Wine Club




A very well made, extremely well priced, entry level Merlot. This wine provides you with depth and richness that you don’t always get (or expect) at this price-point. Expressive nose of cassis and black currant, licorice and tobacco box, the aromas of this wine are taking you for a ride. The palate shows many classic flavours you can expect from Merlot like dark plum, current, raspberry, dark chocolate, and licorice. I appreciate the medium weight; it brings some boldness to this wine. Outstanding value.




Winery price: $19.95









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