Wild Horse Merlot 2010, Central Coast

Cost: $18-20

What: When I hear the word Merlot, my salivary glands kick into overdrive because I immediately think about rich, juicy, fruity wines. Wild Horse Central Coast Merlot is just such a wine.

This is what a good Merlot should be. it has notes of fresh red fruit and cedar on the nose, with cherry, strawberry and blackberry cobbler flavors. It’s rich and juicy without being jammy. There are enough tannins to give the wine good structure, but not so many that it feels like chewing on an oak log. It has a smooth, medium finish.

Wild Horse Merlot
Wild Horse Merlot

About 90% of the grapes come from the Paso Robles region while 10% come from Monterey. The blend is 89% Merlot, 5% Malbec, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% other reds. Paso Robles is one of my favorite wine regions, consistently turning out incredibly good wines at good prices.

After gentle crushing, the juice was pumped into both open and closed top fermentation tanks. After yeast was inoculated the juice was pumped over twice a day for 20 days when pressing occurred. The wine was racked off of heavy solids into barrels for malolactic fermentation. The wine then was aged in French, American and Hungarian oak barrels and tacked twice during 14 months in the cellar.

One of the bad things about having a lot of wine in your house is that sometimes I overlook bottles. But one of the nice things about having a wine cellar is those bottles merely get better until you can drink them.

This bottle has been sitting in my cellar for about 18 months. (The current release is vintage 2012.) So it has had time to mature and get even more complex. When I opened it and let it sit in a decanter for about 30 minutes, I was thrilled with the wine.

It still tastes fresh and young, but it has gotten more mellow and interesting with time.

All of the Wild Horse wines I have tasted have had a luscious, intense flavor. They do some really interesting things with small volume wines, but their mass market every day wines are just as good.

You can get this wine at less than the suggested price. I have seen it as low as $10.49 a bottle, and at that price it is an incredible bargain.

Winery: Wild Horse Winery and Vineyards has been exploring California’s Central Coast, experimenting with new growing and winemaking methods since its inception in 1981.

Founder Ken Volk bought his first vineyard in 1981 and produced his first wines two years later, 125 cases of Pinot Noir and 450 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon.

The name comes from the wild mustangs that once roamed the hills east of the estate vineyards in Templeton, just south of Paso Robles. The mustang on the label also happens to be the mascot of Volk’s alma mater, Cal Poly.


The winery tries to follow its motto: “Live Naturally, Enjoy Wildly.” It is committed to sustainable farming and letting the diversity of the region show through in its wines. The winery calls its approach “attentive neglect.” That means staying out of the way whenever possible and letting the climate, soil and grape variety call the shots.

While the winery concentrates on Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel, it sources grapes from 16 diverse appellations and more than 50 vineyards throughout California’s Central Coast.

For many wines they ferment individual lots from different terroirs and then blend them into complex wines with a multi-layered finish.

The winery’s small lot experimentation has led to production of some rare varieties such as Malvasia Bianca, Verdelho, Negrette and Blaufrankisch. Most of those small production wines are available only at the winery.

The diversity of soils and climates along the Central Coast also allows the winemakers to work with virtually any grape variety they wish. In 1999, for instance, Wild Horse crushed 30 different varieties.

Wild Horse Merlot with fried chicken.
Wild Horse Merlot with fried chicken.

Goes with: Teri and I had this with fried chicken in a deep fryer, baked potatoes and creamed corn. It was delicious.

Some people think you should only drink white wine with chicken, but that’s kind of a knee-jerk reaction. The spicy, fruity wine was a wonderful complement to the crunchy, juicy fried chicken. I also put a little heat in my breading, so that helped make the pairing even better.

The wine also would pair well with cheeseburgers, steak kebobs, pasta with Marinara sauce, lamb and duck. Serve it with medium-flavored cheese.

Write A Comment

Pin It