Our restaurant’s name comes from a memorable dinner our founder, Bill Humphries, shared with a friend. The friend was so impressed with the Merlot wine Bill served that he decided to call him Eddie Merlot.
If you’ve ever wondered what wine would inspire such a statement, it’s the Harris Merlot, produced by Nickel & Nickel, a California winery that makes that Merlot as well as Medina Chardonnay, both of which we serve by the glass today.
We visited with Jim Doehring, Central U.S. Sales Manager of Nickel & Nickel, about Eddie Merlot’s relationship with Nickel & Nickel.
How many Nickel & Nickel wines does Eddie Merlot’s serve?
Jim Doehring: “Eddie Merlot’s pours two of our wines by the glass, the Harris Merlot and the Medina Chardonnay, and serves some of our other wines by the bottle at the restaurants. It’s one of the more complete views of our portfolio at a restaurant.”
(See our full wine list here, but note, it does vary by location.)
How would you describe the Harris Merlot?
“It’s a warm weather Merlot. It has more red fruit, plum and sage, and a little bit of the cedar box going on. Also a touch of toast and spice from French oak.”
So you use French oak barrels for all of your wine? Why?
“The stuff we’re using is an older growth French oak, so the grain is nice and tight, and you impart a subtle sense of the oak. We do a light to medium toast. We want the oak to be a subtle background player in the wine and only use French in our program.”
How long have you been making the Harris Merlot?
“This is our 11th crush. The first vintage was in 2000.”
Describe the growing season of the Merlot grape.
“It’s different every year, of course, depending on the weather, but in general, we see bud break in March. We look to pick mid-to-late September to early October. Our winemaker, together with our viticultural team samples individual grapes and tastes them to determine when to harvest.”
What are they looking for when they taste the grapes?
“They’re looking for just the right ripeness in the fruit and the seeds. The amount of ripeness you taste in the grapes will ultimately show in the wine, so we taste and pick at optimal ripeness.”
What’s been a really great vintage of Harris Merlot?
“2007 was a spectacular year. The weather was perfect. The biggest thing you want is consistency in spring. Then in the fall, you will have really uniform ripeness. The spring was marvelous, and the temperatures were moderate. We had a little bit of heat in August, and all that did was ramp up the sugars in the wine. It was one of those years that there were no headaches. 2007 is what we’re pouring now. We’ll be into 2008 by mid-summer. With 2007, I would put a few of those in the cellar as it is more of a big shouldered wine. The 2008’s will be immediately drinkable and very enjoyable.”
Tomorrow on the blog, we’ll be discussing the Medina Chardonnay. Subscribe to the blog (in the upper right corner) and you’ll be sure to see it.