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2001 Two-Tone Farm Merlot, Napa

It's always a little icky to think that the wine you're drinking is just some marketer's idea of targeting a specific segment or niche in the marketplace. What happened to passionate people coaxing bottled poetry from the earth in the pursuit of something transcendent of mere grapes??? I mean, c'mon, isn't that where we all want our wines to come from?

Well there are only so many of those types of wineries and wines, and the reality that's been beaten into everyone in the market these days is that its possible to make perfectly good wine, even excellent wine, under the guise of huge corporate behemoth wine companies and in service of very specific marketing aims. In fact, that's where most of the really affordable wine is being made these days, and there's nothing wrong with a drinkable wine that you can buy in most any supermarket. Witness Two Buck Chuck (not that I would consider that drinkable under most circumstances).

Two-Tone Farm is a new venture by Beringer that seems specifically targeted at, well, me. To be exact, me about 8 years ago: a young, urban, single professional interested in music, nightlife, decent food, fun with friends, and, oh yeah, drinking decent wine that I don't have to pay an arm and a leg for.

Hip art on the labels from Santa Fe painter Patrick McFarland; a promotional CD filled with music from (halfway decent) small bands to accompany every release; not a single cork used on any bottle they produce - screwcaps all the way. This is a brand that has been carefully focused on a very different segment of the wine drinking public than those who would normally consume any of the 121 million of bottles that Beringer produces a year.

All of this would be just an interesting marketing anecdote, and might not even merit mentioning here at Vinography if the wines weren't actually decent. This Merlot reminds me of the reason that Merlot became so popular in the first place. It's easy to drink, has great fruit flavors and mellow tannins, and goes great with lots of different foods.

Two Tone is made by Danielle Cyrot, a young (not even 30 yet) winemaker whose name might ring a bell only for the most extreme and long standing fans of French Burgundy. Cyrot comes from a family of winemakers in France who are part of the Hospices de Beaune. The name Cyrot does not appear on any label, but there is a vineyard with that name, and a family with decades of history producing Burgundy. After spending most of her life thinking she wasn't going to be involved in wine at all, she found herself at UC Davis for a Physical Therapy degree and just for kicks took a couple of wine classes. As they say, it was all downhill from there. Cyrot is now the assistant winemaker at Stags Leap in addition to her role at Two Tone.

Despite their very focused and well executed brand campaign, Two Tone doesn't yet have a Web site, so I'm unable to direct you to where you can find out more information about the wine or the winemaking.

But maybe you can just go out and buy a bottle and see for yourself.

Tasting Notes:
Garnet in color, this wine has dominant aromas of bright cherry and plums, with a hint of earthiness. In the mouth its all cherry and cola flavors supported by light tannins, with the plum coming back in the smooth if unimpressive finish.

Food Pairing:
This is a great wine for exactly the purpose the brand was created: everyday casual dining. Give it pizza, give it meatloaf, give it fried chicken.

Overall Score: 8.5/9

How much?: $12-15

This wine should be available at supermarkets and at your local wine store.

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The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud