Warm, vibrant Merlot from Lodi in the north-central California delta

DaDaDa… 2011 Lodi Merlot, by Robin Langton for Naked Wines

“Naked Wines” is an arresting name, I guess, but misleading. I’m guessing that Judy may have thought we’re supposed to consume it, well, au naturel?

Fact is that it’s a great discovery — by the Naked folks, who actually vinted, bottled and sold it, and by us. Though the label tells us virtually nothing, as does their nakedwines.com website, still, a mixed case from them makes for great exploration and enjoyment.

I can do my part, telling you that the Lodi appellation means this soft Bordeaux has a great climate to grow in, and Robin Langton certainly demonstrates affinity with the varietal, which can be more approachable than the more popular red Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon. Alas, too often at modest prices Merlot turns out to be just sort of bland.

This isn’t bland. It can be a great alternative to a lot of meals where Pinot Noir might be chosen — ¬†especially if some Pinots might be just a tad too assertive. The DaDaDa… presents as clear dark-red cherry; and the aroma is, yes, cherries — yet I think it’s rather like a candy sensation. (The wine, by the way, held its aroma and taste very well for a couple of days with just one serving left in the bottle.) Both the initial and the delayed experiences had me somehow sensing prime rib — not as a go-with, which could be wonderful — but in the smell of the wine.

As for taste, there indeed were cherry lollipops there! That’s not bad; it turns out to be appealing. The wine is totally dry, though it’s certainly not “sour” as oenocatechumens are tempted to complain. So — it’s not sweet, not sour, but just right. Goldilocks acids, too, are well balanced. The aftertaste reminded me of a good Pinot Noir but with lighter tannins. The alcohol level is a nice 13.6 percent.

We had the wine with grill-roasted clamcake portions in the shell, ready to bake from the grocery store freezer. Of course our grill was used to make baked potatoes, too, and we had a simple mixed green salad.

I had dithered over a choice of wine for this meal: red? white? rose? I’m glad I had this Merlot to try. Bob Cramer, The Fearless Taster.