Monday, August 10, 2020

The Desert Wine Guy - 2016 Peju - Merlot

2016 Peju - Merlot

   Ya know that feeling you experience when you walk into your favorite wine establishment? If you are like me, you feel like a kid walking into a candy store. That is how I felt earlier today because not only did I find a new favorite wine store here in Central Florida but they carry numerous Napa Valley labels that I have not seen since moving from the West Coast. It seems like every time I walk into a wine shop near me and ask for some Napa wine, I get looked at as if I have three heads or I get told, "let me see if that is available" and of course, it never is. As soon as I walked into this store I saw these Napa labels I had been asking for and I had to find out if they carried any wine from my absolute favorite winery which is Peju ( The answer amazingly, was yes, they did and I was pointed over to the correct section where I saw both the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot varietals. I honestly didn't feel like spending the $45 for the Cabernet Sauvignon (which by the way is a great buy) so instead, I chose the Merlot to perform the tasting on. Today I will be doing that review and sharing it with you guys so, get ready because hopefully this will be a great wine. One last item of interest here is that as well known and awesome as the Peju Winery is, it is very difficult to find their wine outside the winery for some reason. Thankfully, that problem no longer exists for me.
Yours Truly W/ Herta Peju
   Let me continue here by talking a little about the winery and tell you that Peju has unapologetically always produced "Old World" style red wines which are made for wine lovers who are not afraid of Tannin's, Spice, French Oak and Acidity just to name a few different possible tasting Notes. Ever since I first stepped foot into the winery and tasted their wines many years ago, I have been in absolute love with them. The wines are in your face, certainly able to age and ready to knock your socks off now or years from now. Located in the Rutherford AVA of the Napa Valley, Peju was founded in 1983 as a family-owned winery, which it still is today. The winery was founded with just 30 Acres of land but the actual winery itself wasn't built until 1991. Today, the winery has expanded to 204 Acres in four different sub-Ava's of the valley.
   Now, let's talk about the actual wine folks. Today's wine up for review is the 2016 Peju - Merlot. This wine cost me $25 retail but sells for $48 at the winery or $43.20 if you join one of their wine clubs. The wine is cork sealed (of course) and is a small blend of 95% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon & 1% Petit Sirah. All of the grapes for this wine come from the Persephone Vineyard in Rutherford, California and the wines alcohol percentage is at 15%. As a last bit of info here, the Winemaker for this wine is Mrs. Sara Fowler who was named Best Local Winemaker by Napa Valley Life Magazine in 2016, 2017, and 2018.
   As usual, let first us get to the label here on this wine now. I have to be honest as always with you guys and tell you that while I don't have anything really against the label that Peju has chosen for not only this wine but some of their others as well, I think it is just simply, okay. The label shows an image of the winery however it is sort of plain and nothing really to look at, I wish they would come up with a big re-design.
Tasting Menu - Peju Winery

   It is Bouquet time now folks and as I pour the wine and bring the glass to my nose, there most definitely is a nice Note of baking spice leading off here. Happily, I am also getting a nice bit of cocoa that is going just perfectly along with that baking spice. I am also thankfully, not getting any sense of this being a sweet or fruit forward / jammy wine. Following these two Notes up is some nice oak but not so much where I have to sit back in my chair and scream, "Oak Monster" as Gary Vaynerchuk would say. Adding to these Notes is one of Cigar Box and while not overwhelming, this Note is truly effective as well and helps in creating a Bouquet of seriousness and certainly one of anticipation. Overall, the Nose on this wine is acting like a hand that is reaching out and pulling me into the glass, without any resistance of course. The only think left to do now is actually taste this wine.
   Now, I finally get to taste this wine and I have to tell you that I really am just dying to do just that. Okay, guys, straight out of the gate here, after taking my first sip of this Merlot I want to throw out one word and that one word is "powerful". Talk about having to sit back in your chair to take it all in, that is what I am having to do here, please give me a minute :) Okay, I am back and I think it is great how already, I am finding something awesome about this wine and I am only in the beginning stages of this review. Up first, I want to talk about an incredible acidity that is definitely not shy but certainly not over the top either. In my humble opinion, it is classic Peju and is perfect. I do believe that what maintains this incredible acidity at the perfect presentation level is that wonderful baking spice that was so available on the Nose and thankfully also transfers on over here nicely. Let me continue now with another word and that word is "juicy". The wine certainly wets the Palate as it also exposes a big-time juiciness which is in complete harmony with both the baking spice and incredible acidity. Having said this, you might begin to believe that the wine is all about being in your face and while it definitely is about that, there is also an underlying bit of softness to it in the sense of that cocoa Note that transfers from the Nose and it is very content with being able to express itself with a bit of softness and not fighting for any more attention. This cocoa Note comes in just slightly before Mid-Palate and immediately begins to impart its flavor onto the wine. Adding to all this is a slightly rich Blueberry Note that really stands out but thankfully not for a sweetness factor because that is not a problem in this wine. This Blueberry provides a lushness here and thankfully as I said, forgets to bring along its usual friend which is sweetness. Yes, I am getting just a touch of sweetness but it is just enough to ensure that the wine is able to present a slight break from the other Notes and nothing that tries to lead the wine.
Entrance - Peju Winery
As I move on here, you need to do something for me. I want you for just a second, to just sit back and think about all these Notes in conjunction with one another. Think about what I am tasting and how much in Heaven I am. I hope you are picking up that his is a serious wine I am reviewing here guys. I want to tell you red wine lovers that for a Merlot, a red wine which is not supposed to be exposing this much energy and flavor, the wine is kicking butt. Folks, I'm not done here because Black Currant makes its appearance and let me tell you, it is freaking awesome. The amazing darkness and depth this Black Currant adds to this wine is outstanding and just adds to the wines big structure. The Black currant Note comes into play just after the opening and seems to love its placement in this wine and it uses that placement to the fullest extent. As I said earlier in this review, Peju reds are normally pretty serious wines and from what I have tasted, the winery does not want to be known for making reds for today's newer wine drinkers. If the wine even started to think about heading the way of an overly fruity and jammy wine it wouldn't get very far as there are way to many serious Notes in its arsenal to stop it. These Notes pull the wine back from even the tiny bit of jamminess over reach and it is held in proper check. In other words, this wine is NOT anywhere in danger of becoming a Generation Z, or New World type red wine so please don't worry. The bit of jamminess that is present is used to actually work for the betterment of the wine. As if all this weren't enough, I am getting some fresh Cinnamon here on the Palate and it is perfectly proportioned to help elevate this wine into stardom. The balance of this wine is simply amazing and there is no tearing of the palate in different directions.
American Oak Holding Peju Wine
It seems that every Note this wine throws out latch onto one another and they all agree to be best of friends. So, how about boldness, how does that sound in your Merlot? Well folks, if you want boldness in your Merlot, you are in luck here because there is amazing boldness that flat out jumps from the wine as it is not laid back and is also not what I would call merely "approachable" at least for the new wine drinker or even the wine drinker who considers Barefoot or Sutter Home to be real wine (sorry folks). One last point to make concerning the boldness of the wines Palate presentation is that it is direct and straight to the point. As I describe all this, I also can't forget to tell you that the wine also has the ability to present a lovely smoothness to a certain point. That smoothness comes into play with that lushness at Mid-Palate and it is almost as if they were meant to just present themselves together and have a limited (although effective) impact on the overall wine. These Notes amazingly don't subdue this wine so don't think they do, they simply add a layer of complexity to it.
   Folks, I do believe that I have said enough here. I think you certainly understand my feelings on this Merlot. I need to wrap this up for you and give you my rating on the wine. Now that we have come to the final paragraph, I want to simply say.....amazing! How's that the one descriptive word to sum this wine up. I need to add the words, strength, boldness & balance, these three words also must be said as this wine exhibits all of these characteristics and wraps them up into a huge generous package called the 2016 Peju - Merlot. This is not your typical Merlot folks so don't expect to be. I can very easily tell you with confidence that this expression of the varietal can be offensive to the average Merlot drinker but not to the people this wine was created for. I am very impressed by winemaker, Mrs. Sara Fowler as she really outdid herself. I think at this point that I have said enough about this it's all gone and I'm sad. It is certainly time to give you my rating and on The Desert Wine Guy rating scale I am giving this wine 96 outstanding points.
   For those of you interested in a little bit more concerning this wine, here is the Tech Sheet (

                                                                                                                                The Desert Wine Guy

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