After going “Sideways” years ago, Merlot is back

14 years ago, “Sideways” rocked the Merlot world.  But not in a good way.

“Sideways” is a 2004 road trip/mid-life crisis comedy movie starring Paul Giamatti.  A fun movie, it had some good laughs…unless you were a Merlot producer.

Giamatti’s character loved Pinot Noir but detested Merlot, a point that he made perfectly clear when he shouted the line:  “I am not drinking any f***ing Merlot!”

But it was just a movie.  It wouldn’t have any effect, right?


Poor Merlot.

In the months and years after the release of “Sideways”,  Pinot Noir’s reputation …and sales…skyrocketed.  Merlot sales went into the spit bucket.  One California financial institution estimated that the Merlot industry…vineyards as well as wineries… lost approximately $400 million in the decade following the release of “Sideways”.

I’m not sure how they came up with those exact numbers.  I do know Merlot’s reputation got hammered.  To this day, I still hear from people who shun Merlot, saying, “you saw Sideways, right?”

I’ll admit that I also bought into the stigma.  Like many others, I avoided Merlot simply because it was Merlot.   I guess dumb habits die hard.

If we haven’t already, now is the time for all of us to get beyond “the Sideways effect”.

While we’ve been stiff arming Merlot, we’ve been missing out.


Visiting Walla Walla a couple of weeks ago, I anticipated that half of the fun would be tasting the locally-produced Merlots.  I was not disappointed.  L’Ecole, Otis Kenyon, Seven Hills…all terrific.

Those particular bottles are not easy to find beyond Walla Walla .  But here’s a Walla Walla Merlot with good distribution and it fits into our PTWG price range:  Waterbrook Reserve.

I’m currently helping a client fill his cellar with wines ranging from inexpensive to “trophy”.  I provided half a dozen wines for him to try.  His favorite, and it wasn’t even close, was this Waterbrook.

It tastes like dark berries and chocolate.  The body is medium.  The overall sensation:  smoooooth.

Depending on which store you visit, you might find the 2014 or the 2015 vintage.  There’s little variation between the two.  They taste quite similar.

As of October 19, we found Waterbrook Reserve Merlot at:


Safeway  NE 69th & Sandy       $21.99       Safeway  SE  Hawthorne       $21.99

QFC  NE 56th & Burnside        $21.99       Fred Meyer  Hollywood         $21.99


Safeway  NW Lovejoy                $21.99        Safeway  NW Cornell Rd.    $21.99

Fred Meyer   Stadium                $21.99        Fred Meyer  Walker Road   $21.99


Safeway    SW Barbur               $21.99          Safeway   West Linn             $21.99

Fred Meyer  SW Barbur           $21.99          Fred Meyer  Tualatin            $21.99