Don’t take drinking advice from fictional characters who drink from the dump bucket! That sounds obvious, but the film Sideways actually depressed sales of Merlot for many years after its release in 2005. For those with any lingering doubts, know that Merlot is by far the most planted red grape in Bordeaux, and the most expensive Bordeaux wine, Petrus, is made exclusively from that grape. Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are half siblings, with similar flavors but subtle differences in structure and texture: Merlot is less acidic and tannic than Cabernet Sauvignon with consequently more highlighted fruit flavors, which partially explains why they work so well together in the traditional Bordeaux Blend. This particular Merlot is from the Bedrock Vineyard, one of the oldest and most famous vineyards in California. Founded in 1854 by Generals William “Tecumseh” Sherman and “Fightin” Joe Hooker, Bedrock Vineyard has grown grapes for over 160 years. The current vines were planted by Senator George Hearst in 1888 after phylloxera began killing the original vines in the mid-1880s, and the ancient, organically farmed vines produce a thrilling intensity. ThereAfter is a collaboration between spouses James and Lorenza Allen, with the name alluding both to their need to schedule their time to go “there” after finishing work at their employers’ wineries (Failla and Two Shepherds, respectively) as well as to their “happily thereafter.” The most remarkable element of this wine is its freshness. Picked much earlier than your average Napa Merlot, there is no hint of raisin, just perfectly ripe plum and cherry, and the skins were ripe enough for the ample tannins to become velvety instead of astringent, yet the wine clocks in at svelte 13% alcohol. This would be a great match for leaner cuts of red meats such as grilled skirt steak or lamb chops.