If you've ever been to the Dry Creek Valley you know that where vines aren't diving deep into the earth to find nutrients, wild stands of fennel, rosemary, and eucalyptus grow from the hardscrabble terrain. This long-underappreciated appellation has a flavor signature reflective of the struggle the vines endure to deliver concentrated fruit, along with shadows of the aforementioned vegetation that somehow manages to thrive here.
In the right hands, Dry Creek fruit - decidedly biased towards big reds - can be profound and unmistakably Dry Creek. My mouth waters at the memory of the coiled tannins and potent blackness of the Zins, Petite Sirahs, and Cabernets made here. But as this wine proves, Dry Creek Valley's thumbprint cuts across all vinifera varieties.
2011 Frei Brothers Merlot Dry Creek Valley $17
Though it doesn't hit you over the head with it, this Merlot for Cab lovers strikes that distinctive Dry Creek chord with transparency. Deep, fleshy fruit unwinds slowly in the glass and finishes long in the mouth. This will make repeat appearances at our dinner table.