California Cabernets, especially from Napa, are well known for their power, richness, tannin, high alcohol...and too often, astronomical price. Those in the "cult" category such as Screaming Eagle or Harlan Estate can fetch hundreds of dollars or more per bottle, and are difficult or impossible to get unless you're a "VIP" customer and on the allocation list. Don't get me wrong: there are some outstanding Napa (and Sonoma, for that matter) Cabs at "fairly reasonable" prices and they, too, have a devoted following, albeit among us normal folk. And given that I'm a #1 fan of Bordeaux, years ago I discovered "Meritage" wines, produced by a group of American vintners that formed The Meritage Alliance in 1998 to produce and…

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What's a Meritage? Well, it's a blend - either white OR red (most people think it's red only, and that's wrong) - that's supposed to be similar in style to the great wines of Bordeaux. Meritage is pronounced to rhyme with "heritage" although I often say it the wrong, French way myself (Mare-it-tahj) out of habit. The name came from a consumer contest in the late 1980s to promote these  blends, which come mainly but not exclusively from California. Wineries that put "Meritage" on the label have to pay a fee per case to the Meritage Alliance, and those wines must be made from specific grapes. Because of that, a lot of wineries just blend their grapes and create so-called…

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Meritage, as you may know, is a kind of proprietary red wine made by any number of producers in California. It's supposedly done in the "Bordeaux style" which means it must have at least two of these varieties - Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, and Petit Verdot - and can have all five, though few do. To be labeled a Meritage wine, the winery has to be a member of the Meritage Association and follow a few rules. But that's not something for you to worry about. Anyway, I like my share of Meritages, although they tend to be more fruity, dense and powerful than Bordeaux wines. I've enjoyed Buena Vista, Charles Krug, Cosentino, Ehler's Estate, Guenoc, Murrieta's Well,…

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