Wine of the Week: The Velvet Devil Merlot

Wine: The Velvet Devil Merlot

Grapes: Merlot (90 percent), cabernet sauvignon (10 percent)

Region: Walla Walla, Wash.

Vintage: 2012

Price: $9.99

Availability: Cost Plus, Lee’s Discount Liquor, Total Wine

In the glass: Velvet Devil Merlot is a deep purplish-bloody red with a clean semi-opaque appearance going out into a light violet to crimson-red rim definition and showing medium-high viscosity.

On the nose: There are powerful crushed black fruits “jumping” out of the glass like vampires out of a coffin, with lots of blackberry jam, boysenberry juice, hints of creamy cherry crush with underlying notes of even more red plummy fruits, creeping touches of phenolics and graveyardlike minerals.

On the palate: There is a full frontal goblin attack of crushed black berry fruits, concentrated jammy and even slightly spicy cassis, blackberry sorbet, soft balanced tannins and a really lovely, juicy fleshlike mouth-feel. The midpalate is solid, showing good backbone and the lingering finish is a testament to skilled winemaking using top quality fruit, with just a touch of black licorice, black cherry and allspice remaining on the palate after 20-plus seconds. This devil does not joke around.

Odds and ends: I always look for an appropriate wine for the Halloween parties that are now de rigueur even among adults; in other words, a wine that gives us a good fright of a taste, while still indulging the palates of ghouls, vampires and mummies alike. Velvet Devil Merlot is from “crazy man” Charlie Smith. He owns K Vintners and is formerly an alternative rock band manager living in my hometown of Copenhagen for 11 years. Smith discovered that it was possible to make rock star wines from the great vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley and the Wahluke slope in Washington. He purchased a historic estate at the foothills of the Blue Mountains, which was homesteaded in 1853, and began producing an ambitious and exceptional range of wines. Velvet Devil is such an apt name for this wine that indeed has a velvety mouth-feel, with rich and forward fruit, yet none of that iodine and bloodlike taste often associated with insipid merlots that abound in California. Washington is the perfect place for merlot with its cooler climate and better soil types for this grape variety that originated in Bordeaux, France. This is the perfect wine for Halloween. Drink it now through 2016.

Gil Lempert-Schwarz’s wine column appears Wednesdays. Write him at P.O. Box 50749, Henderson, NV 89106-0749, or email him at