Let me actually start this review with a disclaimer. There’s a lot of discussion among wine reviewers/wine bloggers about potential “conflict of interest” related to their reviews. The conflict scenario is typically an instance when a review is done for a wine and the reviewer has received something of value from the producer of the wine (i.e. advertising dollars, expense-paid trips, etc.)
It certainly makes sense that someone would be skeptical if a reviewer is getting paid by a producer to publish a review, of course the perceived conflicts are often more subtle than that. While reviewers try to avoid conflicts, they also often like to get paid for their work. I’m not talking about payola, but advertising and such. Some reviewers have policies against accepting advertising from wine producers, or won’t do reviews for any wine producers that purchase ads from them. Others accept ads and proclaim that their editorial integrity is free of influence from ad dollars.
My policy is one of transparency and disclosure, and hence this disclaimer. Every prior wine review I have ever done has been such that I was not paid to do the review, nor was there any financial gain for me if you purchased the wine. That is slightly different with this review. I’ve partnered with the folks at Barclay’s Wine for this review. They didn’t produce this wine, but they sell it. They also didn’t pay me to do this review, but if you click the link at the end of this review and buy the wine, I will get a commission for that.
Some may scream, “conflict of interest” but I think that the conflict would exist if I reviewed it, posted a link and didn’t tell you about the business relationship. When Barclay’s approached me about this I made it clear that 1) my reviews need to have integrity and I would approach the review like any other wine and publish my true opinions (good & bad) about the wines; and 2) I would be transparent about my relationship. I think you, the consumer, can make your own decision about whether to trust this review or dismiss it because of the business relationship.
My commitment to my readers is that I will always disclose if I have a relationship like this one related to a review and I will follow the same process to review these wines that I do with any others.
OK, enough disclaimer… let’s talk about this wine.
Randall Harris is a Washington wine label that’s been around for about 14 years, but Randall Harris isn’t a vineyard or a winery. The label is produced by Randy Leitman as a negociant. That means that Leitman doesn’t grow the grapes or even manage the fermentation of the wine, but rather he purchases the wine from another producer and sells it under his own label. Knowing that, I wouldn’t expect a lot of consistency from one vintage to another, but would choose vintages of this label carefully. Fortunately, this vintage is an enjoyable Merlot.
This is not a big, fruity Merlot as much as a floral, spicy one. If your preference is big and fruity, then this isn’t the Merlot for you. When you first open the bottle it’s a touch on the vegetal side, but opens up to be more floral. The nose has a really nice rose and black pepper aroma layered over blackberries, vanilla and a subtle apple pie with allspice. The palate is mostly cherry and blackberry flavors, and it’s velvety-smooth. The finish lingers a bit, but it’s not exceptionally long. This wine goes fantastically well with rich cheeses (I enjoyed a little cheddar with it). It’s a nice, elegant Merlot.
Wine: Randall Harris
OK, now for the shill part…