The Velvet Devil Merlot 2015 is 84% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Malbec, 2% Cabernet Franc, and 2% “other” sourced from 7 sustainable farmed vineyards in the Columbia Valley AVA of Washington State. To be technical, this could be called a Bordeaux blend or in the US a Meritage blend since it uses 4 of the 6 approved Bordeaux grapes. In the US if one grape varietal comprises at least 75% of the grapes in the blend, then that grape can be shown on the label. This 2015 Velvet Devil is one of Charles Smith family of wines, but this along with Kung Fu Girl Riesling, Boom Boom Syrah and 2 others were sold to Constellation Brands in 2016. Constellation has a large, top flight family of wine brands and Charles Smith has stayed on to be a consultant, but keep this in mind, there may be differences in these wines in the future, we will have to wait and see. This Merlot was aged in French oak barrels for 10 months, 30% new barrels, the rest used. A few years ago Charles Smith told me that The Velvet Devil Merlot was the least expensive Merlot that was aged in French oak barrels. He was very proud to have found a way to use expensive oak on an inexpensive wine (I found this on sale for $9.99), making the numbers work is not easy. The alcohol content is 13.5%.
The color is raspberry red with some seriously black highlights. The nose is dark berries, raspberry, a little bit of vanilla, pepper, light herbs, and juicy cherry. This is a medium to full-bodied Merlot, with proper tannins, bright fruit and balanced acidity. It starts with ripe blueberry, chocolate powder, a touch of black pepper, a little pencil shavings, and plum. The mid-palate adds black cherry and herbs. The tannins are there in the mix, they don’t bite, but they make their presence known and the acidity is well matched with the body of this Merlot. The finish is sleek and long.
I find something attractive about the supple fruit flavors in Columbia Valley wines, especially the Red wines and The Velvet Devil Merlot 2015 is an excellent example of this. It is hard to find a Columbia Valley wine that does not have an abundance of flavor and the great thing is they usually have excellent balance. It’s as if the grapes are nice and ripe, but never too ripe. I think that value Merlot (and more expensive Merlot) can be a bit boring, but the Velvet Devil does not have that problem. The ripe, delicious fruit and the solid structure makes The Velvet Devil a wine that drinks extremely well.