Gut Check loves us some wine. We want a bottle with bang and a bang for our buck, so every week we will visit a local wine shop, where an expert will recommend a good-value wine priced under $15. We'll drink some and tell you whether we want to continue -- because the only time Gut Check has our nose in the air is while we're draining our glass.
Walking into Copia Urban Winery & Market (1122 Washington Avenue; 314241-9463), Gut Check was a little intimidated and frankly nervous that they had misunderstood our request for a wine under $15. The white tablecloths, fireplace and sparkling décor didn't exactly indicate we'd be finding a bottle bargain. But, oh, did Copia's wine buyer David Schaeffer prove us wrong. He sat down with Gut Check for a taste of Charles Smith Wines' the Velvet Devil Merlot, that will set you back $15 on the nose.
This 2009 merlot hails from Washington State's Columbia Valley, giving it something California wines cannot. "Washington makes great wines, and they're pretty much known for their pinots," said Schaeffer. "The climate is a little bit cooler than when you go down south to Napa or Sonoma and that allows the grape to stay on the vine a little bit longer and gives them a little bit more sugar so they can make better, fuller wines."
The Velvet Devil does pack some flavor. Think darker fruits like blackberries and or even chocolate-covered cherries. The bright-violet red is smooth (like velvet, you might say) on the palate and aromatic, giving off a clean, spicy scent with a hint of tobacco at the end. At 13.5 percent alcohol, there's a little bit of heat to each sip, but it's not overpowering. "It's one of those wines you can sit around all afternoon and just drink," said Schaeffer.
That's probably what winemaker Charles Smith, a former Scandinavian rock band manager, aimed for. Gut Check will do just as the winery's website encourages: "It's just booze -- drink it!"
Gut Check's Take?
Per Schaeffer's word, The Velvet Devil Merlot is a great afternoon sipper. (Or evening, or maybe even morning. We don't discriminate here.) The fruit and spices provide an easygoing flavor, making this medium bodied merlot an ideal choice for sitting out on the back porch as fall rolls into St. Louis. It's definitely easy to drink...perhaps too easy. Maybe that's the "devil" in the Velvet Devil.