Ten years ago, walking past a liquor store on 48th and 9th or so, I spied a bottle of Marilyn Merlot in the window display and laughed. Clever and witty it seemed, but I had no idea what a phenomenon the wine was, even then. This year…Marilyn Merlot, the surprisingly complex wine with the enormous following, is celebrating its 25th Anniversary.
The wine is rich and smoky, with classic Merlot notes of black fruits and light spice, is ready to drink now with food or on its own. It will pair beautifully with spice-rubbed steaks, savory pizzas or diamonds. The Napa Valley Wine, from winemaker John McCay, has the backbone to age well for five to eight years.
And the 1999 I would have seen in the window 10 years ago? Now worth about $200 in prime condition, according to a quick Internet search, $50 for an empty bottle.
Robert Haynes-Peterson, NY Drinks Examiner, Nov 2011
The 2009 vintage is as voluptuous and seductive as its namesake—Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe.
The wine is elegant with a hint of sweet naughtiness. The first glance is an intriguing reddish purple with aromas of rich floral and hints of herbs. Then the taste…flavors of blackberries, toasted oak, dark cherry, and spice are followed by balanced tannins on the sophisticated finish.
Allow this vivacious, curvy wine to breathe and then enjoy…
The selection – a blend of 88% merlot and 12% cabernet sauvignon from Napa Valley – is a tribute to Monroe and is a star on its own stage.
Julia Hollister, CA Examiner, Oct 2011
49 years after her death, Marilyn Wines will release a wine to honor an anniversary of their own. On September 1, 2011, the 25th vintage of the whimsically-tagged Marilyn Merlot will hit our palates—once we can stop guffawing over the name long enough to take a sip—after all, we wouldn’t want any merlot drool to stain our clown suits.
As it happens, there’s an old enological rule of drool—although, since I just made it up, it probably isn’t that old:
When a wine is named in whimsy, its soul is often flimsy.
Except that Marilyn Merlot is not; it’s the exception to prove the drool. Since vintage one in 1985, Marilyn Merlot has been a consistent crowd pleaser, whether the crowd consists of Johnny and Jane Average Consumer, snooty sommeliers, know-it-all wine writers like me or out-of-work Second City rejects…
The wine is a wonderful representation of what top California merlot has evolved into…
As a varietal, well-made merlot can be juicy, silken, scrumptious and elegant; a wine with notes of plums, currants and violets. It can and does stand tall with the top wines of the world…
As to the subject at hand, 2009 Marilyn Merlot is well defined with forward fruit; damson plum, black cherries and currant. There is a slight floral note that caps a lovely, supple palate. Tannins are well behaved—as in a merlot, if not a Monroe, they must be. There’s a deep and vigorous finish, too. This is a wine that—unlike its namesake—goes out with a bang.
Chris Kassel, Detroit Wine Examiner, Aug. 2011
The 2009 vintage of Marilyn Merlot is as voluptuous and seductive as its namesake – Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe. Offered in a silk-screen bottle, the wine is elegant with a hint of sweet naughtiness. The first glance is an intriguing reddish purple with aromas of rich floral and hints of herbs. Then the taste - flavors of blackberries, toasted oak, dark cherries and spices are followed by balanced tannins on the sophisticated finish.
Wine Examiner, Oct 2011
86 from Wine Enthusiast Buying Guide: Lots of rich raspberry, cherry, and blackberry fruit in this softly appealing wine…
Wine Enthusiast Buying Guide, Dec. 2011
Let’s begin wit the Posthumous Award…The obvious winner in the wine division this year would be Marilyn Merlot…it also deserves recognition for longevity. The wine nicely rounded, youthful and friendly—just the sort of wine you’d like to spend the evening with, or at least take to dinner.
Marguerite Thomas, Wine Review Online. Com, Feb. 2012
This 24th vintage of what may seem like a gimmicky wine was released on June 1, on what would have been Norma Jean’s birthday. Surprisingly, it’s a more serious effort with some complexity. Damp soil, currant, cherry and dark fruit tinged with red raspberry. Claret-style with structure, accessible.
The San Francisco Chronicle Recommends, Sept. 2010
Merlot Napa Valley 2008
This fancifully named Merlot is filled with firm and shapely fruit smelling of red cherries with a touch of clove-like spice for good measure. It is supple in texture and a bit plump at first impression but recovers nicely across the palate and finishes with a bang.
Connoisseur’s Guide to CA Wine, 2010
A collector’s AND a connoisseur’s Merlot! This is a very drinkable wine, not just something to be collected by her fans, but by people who enjoy what’s going on inside the artful bottle as well. The wine will continue to improve with age, and may appreciate in value…
Frankswine.com Franks Union Wine Mart, DE
This beautiful wine reinforces America’s love affair with merlot and the memory of Marilyn Monroe…The 2007 Marilyn Merlot is a grand wine that, if she were still with us, she would be proud of. It is well balanced, intense in color, and accents the aromas of ripe plums and dark raisins.
Shelia and Bennet Bodenstein, Standard Democrat, 2010
83 points—One never knows just what awaits from this fanciful image, and, in her latest outing…
Connoisseur’s Guide to CA Wine, 2008
You can make a good wine and have fun with the name. Giving respect to the glamorous actress Marilyn Monroe, this wine has great body (we couldn’t resist), soft mouth feel and generous fruit-forward flavors. Daily Record, San Marcos, TX, Oct. 2008
The 2006 Marilyn Merlot, one in a line of wines produced with a label image of Marilyn Monroe, is, of course, a “fun” wine to give or get. But it’s also quite a good red.
Bob Hosmon, Sun-Sentinel, June 2008
Medium brackish ruby: attractive, smokey, cedary, blackberry, and black cherry fruit aroma with notes of bell pepper and charred oak; medium-full body; rich, plush, cedary, black cherry fruit flavors; medium-full tannin; lingering aftertaste. Drinkable now. Recommended.
California Grapevine, Sept. 2007
The 21st vintage of the wines that celebrate the Hollywood goddess are not fluff. They are produced off top Napa Valley vineyards at a winery (don't ask me which) in Napa. The recent release, which (as usual) came out on her birthday, June 1, and bears a classic image of the starlet, is a sweetheart. The nose is cassis, smoky oak, and hot spice. The palate is "sweet" and intense, with chocolatey texture and ripe, supple tannins. The finish is long, and rounds out the tasting experience. It's a big, gracious, full-bodied wine, still tightly wound. The label is another exquisite photo of Marilyn -- just her head and arms, resting on a pillow -- the eyes dreamily half open. These are collector's material -- in case you didn't know.
Sandra Silfven, The Wine Report, The Detroit News, Aug. 17, 2007
Marilyn Monroe is one of les grandes eternales, and she lives on in Marilyn Merlot, with its neatly turned pun and bottle-blonde. That was 21 vintages ago in a wine climate far stuffier than ours, so the humor was welcome as it was rare. MM is no laughing matter now….Collectors are mad for them.
Bill Marsano, Hemisphere Magazine, October 2007
The 2005 Marilyn Merlot, Napa Valley, $27, contains 12% Cabernet Sauvignon and has a nose of plum, blackberry, cherry, raspberry, and fresh manure. Fresh, flat flavors of the same fruit plus pepper are laced with good acidity and finish medium-broad and truncated.
Colorado Wine News, Oct-Dec 2007
Pleasant plum, black cherry, and toasty oak round out this soft and mature wine. This full-bodied and voluptuous merlot would make a perfect gift for the wine connoisseur and Monroe fan alike.
Bee, Modesto, Dec. 5, 2007
The 2004 vintage is the 20th for Marilyn Merlot, and I finally took the plunge and tasted it. The verdict: a very nice merlot that, at $26, isn't cheap, but it's fairly reasonable by Napa Valley and collectible wine standards.
The wine is firmly structured and displays ripe black cherry flavors accented by notes of anise, mint and cedar. It's a little more angular than the star it celebrates, but it should get softer and fleshier with a year or two more in the bottle. The grapes come from a couple of prime vineyards in the heart of the valley.
Laurie Daniel in the San Jose Mercury News
Most serious wine lovers, myself included, have disregarded this wine as a gimmick. Much to my surprise, it is not. It's real wine, and it's really tasty. The color is like ruby velvet. The aroma is a big bouquet of flowery ripe fruit. The taste is quintessential soft Napa Merlot. No straight lines. All curves.
Mark Tarbell, The Arizona Republic
This is what at a merlot should be. It's soft supple and smooth. It has full, round flavors of chocolate, raspberries, and blueberries. It would go well with a meal or without. It somehow tasted classy.
Dan and Krista Starkman, Indianapolis Journal Gazette
But never mind Marilyn, how about the wine? ...the new edition sells at the winery for a more affordable $26 for a standard bottle, and I find it competitive if not head-and-shoulders above the competition at that price point.
Robin Garr, WineLoversPage.com
This vintage is a wine with legs and at the price of $26, one does not need to 'Marry a Millionaire' to enjoy it.
Jack Heeger, Napa Register
It makes a party better when you bring a surprise like Marilyn Merlot to the table. Your friends will likely be happy to be introduced to something so clever and so good.
Fifi Chao, Orange County Business Journal
It’s a collector’s item for fans of the blonde bombshell and hey, the wine’s got great body, too. Expensive spicy French oak melds with great fruit on the nose. It is still a young wine on the palate with lots of bite, tannin, and bold flavors, with a nice plum follow-through on the finish.
Sandra Silfven, detnews.com, The Wine Report
Not only is the packaging attractive, the wine also lives up to its reputation. The blend of ninety percent Merlot and ten percent Cabernet Sauvignon is plush, soft, and sultry.
Leslie Sbrocco, Check, Please! Bay Area,
These Merlots Can Stand On Their Own---Since 1985, the Napa producer has been making a collector’s edition of the wine, which despite the gimmick is surprisingly quite tasty.
Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr, The Wine Guys
87pts (One Puff) 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. Fairly outgoing in fruit and helped along by suggestions of chocolate and sweet oak, this supple, nicely balanced Merlot is firmed by a light bit of finishing tannin but is built in a buxom, generally accessible style that invites early drinking. Admittedly on the showy side, Marilyn has done well with her well-endowed Merlots.
Connoisseur's Guide to California Wine
…we tried a wine that we've been wanting to try for years - Marilyn Merlot... It turns out it's worth the price, label or not. This is what a merlot should be. It's soft and supple and smooth. It has full, round flavors of chocolate, raspberries and blueberries.
Journal Gazette, FortWayne.com
Scored 8.5/9---Marilyn Merlot medium ruby in color, this wine has a nose of cherry, vanilla, and light hints of roasted coffee. In the mouth it has good balance and a pleasant mouth feel with primary flavors of black cherries, dark plum, and tobacco notes that surface in its moderate finish. The tannic structure is smooth and very light, making it easy to drink as a young wine.
Don’t be fooled by the punny name which honors the late sex symbol. This is a very drinkable wine, not something just to be collected by her fans, but by people who enjoy what’s inside the artful bottle as well.
Novusvinum.com Wine of the Week
Despite the clever marketing package, this Merlot is a serious wine with deep aromas of sweet fruit and multilayered complexity. On the palate, the wine is chewy, but exhibits the same elegance Ms. Monroe did.
Alan Goldfarb, St. Helena Star, August 25, 2005
Gentlemen prefer Merlots…that's Marilyn Merlot.
Larry Lipson, Los Angeles Daily News, July 25, 2005
3 Stars “Concentrated flavors of black cherry and raspberry, with hints of strawberry. Prominent oak. Good length. Dry finish.
90pts (One Puff) For a label that has as much to do with attention-getting as it has ever had with the delivery of quality wine, Marilyn has certainly busted out all over in this vintage. The wine is deep and ripe with supple, almost fleshy feel, and her big, frontal character is trim in the middle from a well-placed dollop of balancing acids leading to lingering and oh-so inviting finish. This version of Marilyn succeeds despite a bit of coarseness at the end.
Connoisseur's Guide to California Wine
Some like it hot, but those who'd prefer to lock their lips around Marilyn Merlot, a Napa Valley, California wine that tastes best at room temperature…is ‘soft and luscious' and gets more coveted with age.
Another stunning label of Marilyn Merlot and the wine is just as appealing; a customer favorite with plenty of ripe blackberry flavors and a smooth finish.
Beverage Dynamics, Retailer Wine Tastings, www.beveragenet.net
I found even more to praise in the 1998 Marilyn Merlot than I did an earlier vintage…The aroma is earthy and slightly viny…the wine expands and improves its flavor as it breaths…The wine itself is medium bodied…there is a good deal of complexity and warmth here.
Justin A. Busch, The World of Wine @pulsetc.com
…in the U.S. consider the name of the top-selling California red: Marilyn Merlot. Featuring the famous actress with her face half-covered by a red chiffon veil and wearing little else, …is a blend of 85% merlot and 15% cabernet franc grown the in Napa Valley. Though gentlemen are suppose to prefer blondes, current U.S. figures indicate reds…
Financial Mail, Arts & Leisure, www.fm.com.
Every seven years or so I get an itch, and nothing can cure it like a luscious Merlot. If its name is Marilyn, so much the better…Some gentlemen prefer blondes, but I'll take the velvet Napa fruit and suave finish of this luscious red any day.
Anthony Dias Blue, wine and spirits editor, Bon Appetit.
A jeroboam of Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1976 went for $950, a bottle of Chateau Petrus 1985 sold for $500, and an etched bottle featuring the likeness of Marilyn Monroe—a double magnum of Marilyn Merlot 1995 produced by Nova Wines of Napa Valley—brought in $650.
“Public Radio Auction Breaks Own Record…”, Wine Spectator
A graceful and feminine red. Supple but medium-bodied with an explosion of berry and velvety plum flavors.
The 1993 vintage of Marilyn Merlot, a wine that is becoming a collector's item, is appearing in a few shops…
New York Times
Moderately full in body (and dare we say, voluptuous), it is at once both mouth filling and slightly tough.
Connoisseur's Guide to California
It's a little tart and very full bodied.
Ripe and spicy…generous blackberry, raspberry and currant aromas and flavors. Shows a burst of flavor and smoothly integrated tannins on the finish.
The Wine Spectator
Featured on TV show Barter Kings on June 27, 2012 as a bottle of wine valued at $3,000.
Lean and lively, with a nice core of raspberry and currant flavors. Finishes smoothly and inviting; makes you want another sip.
The Wine Spectator
Toast glamour with Marilyn Merlot, a red wine from Napa Valley.
The 1989 Marilyn Merlot was Silver Medal winner in the 1993 Orange County Fair Wine Competition
Soft, ripe and generous with lots of blackberry and currant aromas…
The Wine Spectator
Finishes smooth and inviting, makes you want another sip.
The Wine Spectator
…The best full bodied red of 1987. At this time, Marilyn Merlot is available only at upscale vino emporiums in California and New York. A very good reason for a trip to the Coasts.
A wine with great legs…The full bodied, red varietal backing up the equal full bodied image of Hollywood's former sex goddess.
Los Angeles Times
This is one wine that can truly claim to be seductive.
The Wine Spectator
Like the star it’s name after, Marilyn Merlot is a full bodied vintage from California, fruity and luscious.