It is a strange fact that merlot from the Okanagan Valley is still something of a hard sell in the marketplace. It may be lingering effects from the Sideways phenomenon, although that seems so far in the past now to figure it in too directly. A fatal attraction kind of relationship with cabernet sauvignon, and to some degree shiraz, and most of all pinot noir, are part of the reason, certainly. But merlot from this region deserves a much, much better fate.
The new vintage, 2012, of Inniskillin Okanagan Estate Series Merlot is a prime example of what can be done. At $18, it provides an excess of bright, ripe red fruits, especially plum. It is nicely structured, the acidity is finely balanced, and its signature cherry top notes almost burst out of the glass. Affordable, approachable, delicious.
Merlot plays a significant role in the Inniskillin Single Vineyard Series Meritage, $35, as well. The wine also has cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. Each of the varieties was crushed, fermented, and aged separately, before the final, pre-bottling blend was achieved. It has great, firm structure, full body, some spicy notes, and a long finish. You can drink it tonight, but better to resist temptation, and wait another year or so, for some of the fresh oak to dissipate and yield more of the soft tannins and luscious fruit notes. The best of both worlds: drink the merlot tonight, and eyeball the meritage resting comfortably in the wine rack.