I really want to like this wine. The overall look of the packaging is clean and simple but the blazoned red “181” on the black label is striking. I also like the choice of tapered meritage-glass for the bottle. It looks premium and very up-market. As I review the wine, I find myself taking a few extra sips, as if I’m waiting for the wine to suddenly unleash a torrent of fruit and complexity. But it never really comes.
I still really want to like this wine. 181 takes a more austere approach to crafting this Merlot from Lodi. It’s a more muscular style of merlot one that I’m rather partial to. 181 claims the clones used trace their roots back to Pomerol in Bordeaux, and that they are quite suitable for the red clay soils of clay station vineyards in Lodi, which are similar to Pomerol. The color in the glass is more ruby, and more transparent than you’d expect from a more muscular merlot. On the nose, the wine offers sweet plum laced with raspberry, but with mineral qualities like salt and chalk. The tannins are active but remain relatively pleasant, sometimes bordering on lush, particularly in the finish.
I applaud this more muscular style of merlot. It represents a truer Bordeaux style, and a nice departure from the overly jammy-style that I believe has flooded the market. But I have to admit, I’d prefer just a little more fruit on the mid palate. I still like this wine, though.
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Here’s what some others thought of the 2008 181 Merlot:
Disclosure: This wine was received as a sample.