By Jeff Maisey
Norfolk’s Mermaid Winery has debuted two new, sexy red wines for the cold winter months – the Mermaid Winery Merlot and the Norfolk Express.
For both of these wines, owner Jennifer Eichert purchased juiced grapes from the Central Coast and Napa Valley regions of California.
Why California grapes?
“The quality we’re getting from California is great,” said Eichert, “and we’re able to do a lot of fun, interesting things with this fruit.”
The Norfolk Express represents the first red blend for Mermaid Winery. The wine is a 50/50 mix of merlot and cabernet sauvignon.
The description reads: Mermaid Winery’s first Bordeaux-style blend using our favorite grapes merlot and cabernet sauvignon. The nose has clove and tobacco, while the palate has dark cherry and blueberry.
Like the 2012 Merlot, the Norfolk Express was fermented and aged in the oak barrels patrons see behind the glass in the bar area of the winery.
“People love red blends,” said Eichert, “because they can be fun and exciting. You get to see the result of what a blend does to the wine. It has a nice red berry finish, but it is not tart. There’s this smooth edge at the end.”
The bottle label features the Mermaid Winery logo and an old train engine – hence Norfolk Express.
“It kind of embodies what Norfolk is all about,” explained Eichert. “And the train is in our backyard.”
The Mermaid Winery Merlot is a 2012 vintage using 100 percent merlot. The wine completed primary and secondary fermentation in oak barrels. The oak barrels are a mix of French, Hungarian and American oak.
The merlot is a limited production release – only 50 cases. Two oak barrels were used to produce the wine, which was hand-bottled on-site.
The official tasting note description: A velvety, luscious wine with violet and milk chocolate on the nose. This lively merlot delivers a rush of blueberry and plum on the palate and is certain to grow only more delicious with time.
Thanks – or no thanks – to the movie Sideways, the popularity merlot dropped in America and consumers began requesting pinot noir. Eichert wants to dispel the notion that merlots are boring.
“The idea is to bring sexy back into merlot,” said Eichert. “The wine has a lot of body and mouth feel; it is really luscious and curvy. There’s this chocolate finish with a lot of red fruit. When you taste it it’s not your average merlot.”
Moving forward Mermaid Winery will exclusively use Hungarian oak. It has similar characteristics to French oak, but at a much lower price.
“I’ve been told Hungarian oak was used primarily before World War II by everyone,” said Eichert. “But once the war began a lot of Hungarian forests were burned. As a result there was no more Hungarian oak to be used.”
Mermaid Winery opened in May 2012 as the first-ever urban winery in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
In late fall, Mermaid unveiled a pinot noir. Its new cabernet sauvignon will become available in early 2015.
Mermaid Winery Merlot retails for $40/bottle. The Norfolk Express is $45/bottle.