International Merlot Day takes place annually on November 7th, timed perfectly as we head into the “red” season of wine drinking.

The word “merlot” is thought to be a diminutive of merle, the French name for the blackbird, which most likely refers to the colour of the grape and the dark fruity taste. Originally produced in the Bordeaux region, this dry wine often has a slight bitter taste, which comes from the skin of the grapes during the wine making process.

Here in Canada, the Okanagan Valley has become known for producing some great merlot wines. The glacier-formed valley offered varying soil profiles, long, hot growing days, and diverse micro-climates. These distinct sub-regions posed an opportunity to cultivate wine with unmistakable terroir. 

One vineyard in particular that’s been winning awards (Canada’s only five-time winner of Winery of the Year) is Mission Hill Family Estate.Their wines are aged with new and Old World techniques, creating a product that echoes the terroir of the valley.  Bees, falcons, and chickens replace pesticides and insecticides. Cover crops, earthworms, and compost are used in place of chemical fertilizers.

Their Mission Hill Reserve Merlot 2021 is part of their Reserve Collection, that showcases only their top select vintages. That year had an unprecedented midsummer heat leading to the earliest start of harvest and highest number of growing degree days on record.

This 2021 Reserve Merlot was grown in two of their estate vineyards, Osoyoos, and Oliver. The result is a wine that is full-bodied and exhibits a well-structured composition. On the nose, it showcases elegant aromas of wild blackberry and dark cherry. The palate is rich, featuring ripe dark fruit flavors, refined tannins, and a persistent finish.

This delicious full-bodied wine pairs well with most anything, such as meats, pastas, and cheeses, and of course is delectable to the palate on its own. So why not grab a bottle to share with someone special over dinner, or uncork one on your own and curl up and watch one of the following films that all prominently feature merlot in the storyline:

  • Sideways
  • A Walk in the Clouds
  • Bottle Shock
  • You Will Be My Son
  • A Good Year
  • Somm
  • Uncorked

Available from the LCBO as a Vintages Front Line Release. Aged 15 months in French Oak Barrels – 750ml, 14.5% ABV, $31.95.

About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist based in Toronto with a focus on tourism, lifestyle, entertainment and community issues. He has written several travel articles and has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He’s willing to take on any assignments of interest, attend parties with free booze, listen to rants, and travel the world in search of the great unknown. He’s eager to discover the new, remember the past, and look into the future.