The Fort Cellars North Coast Merlot 2012 is a $4.99 Trader Joe’s exclusive, produced by DNA Vineyards who also make Babble and Benefactor wines for TJ’s. The North Coast AVA consists of Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Mendocino County, Lake County, Marin County and Solano County, this AVA runs for 100 miles up the Pacific Coast and around 50 miles inland. Most of the grapes for the Fort Cellars were taken from Mendocino (north of Sonoma) and Lake County (north of Napa). The back label mentions cedar flavors and hints of French oak, which would indicate this Merlot has some sort of French oak influence, an unexpected bonus in a 5 buck wine. The alcohol cont is 13.9%.
The color is a see-thru plum red. The nose is ripe cherry, oak spice and licorice. This Merlot has more body than you normally have come to expect in a $4.99 Red wine. It is smooth up front, with a little rough edge from the tannins on the mid-palate. It tastes of plum, black cherry and sour cherry. The mid-palate brings a slight pull from the tannins, along with raspberry jam and oak spice. This is a $4.99 food wine, it’s rough edges would balance nicely when biting into a cheeseburger or a Chipotle steak burrito. The finish is fairly full and long.
The Fort Cellars North Coast Merlot 2012 is not a dumbed down 5 buck wine, all smooth fruit with no structure or personality. It may not be the most delicious or balanced Merlot on the store shelf, but it is an honest effort and is extremely useful as an everyday, Tuesday night, pizza party wine. It drinks well enough that you would never guess this a $4.99 Merlot.