Thursday, September 3, 2015

Nova Wines Norma Jean Merlot 2014

Nova Wines Norma Jean Paso Robles Merlot 2014

I wrote last year about this time of the release of Marilyn Merlot and Norma Jeane wines from Nova Wines.  As I wrote earlier, Nova play on the name of the famous cinema starlet, Marilyn Monroe, and have built the brand on an annual release of moderate priced Merlot varietal wines featuring an authentic Marilyn Monroe photo on the label. What might have started out as a whimsical or even corny idea has turned into a fun wine that has an almost cult following in some precincts of collectors. Vintage bottles of the label fetch high prices that far exceed the pedigree of the wine, explicable only due to the marketing/branding of the label collection. I know of one reputable wine shop in a mid-size midwestern city that holds a 1985 Marilyn Merlot that they're offering at $3500.

As I write about this marketing strategy and phenomenon in detail in my earlier blogposts, I wrote that Norma Jeane is the low end, budget priced label in the portfolio which continues to grow in a range of varietal offerings and price points. The family has grown to also include Marilyn Cabernet and a recently released premium priced ($100+) Velvet Collection. According to their marketing, "Norma Jeane wines have captured the imagination of collectors and as well as those who simply enjoy the exuberance of young and delicious Merlot." Indeed, its more marketing than viticulture and winecraft as the wine's appeal exceeds its wine pedigree.

This wine at $11 retail ($13 release price from the producer) is the entry level wine in the range, produced for early drinking upon release, or when young. As such, it is whimsically marketed as a 'young Marilyn Merlot' (wine) and features pictures of the starlet early in her career at a young age.

Similar to last year's release, the rear label notes this is the 17th edition of this wine and cites, "Before Marilyn, before Hollywood, there was Norma Jean, referring to the actual name of the starlet. The Marilyn Wines website describes the photo adorning this year's release label and that early photo of the starlet and . "Marilyn appears on the cover of the magazine Personal Romance wearing a red striped blouse and a ship captain’s hat in this photo taken by Bruno Bernard. Marilyn once remarked "Remember Bruno, everything started with you!" as he took some of the earliest photos of Marilyn."

Despite the producers' winemakers notes about the wine, this is a modest lackluster wine, lacking charm or appeal, consistent with earlier releases. 

The producer's notes, "Making a young Merlot requires a coordinated eff ort on the part of the vineyard staff and the winemaker, to grow the grapes and make wine with the knowledge that the wine is slated for early release. One is immediately struck with the rich, deep, purple color of the 2014 Merlot. There is nice intensity of aromas with raspberries, red currants, and plums and hints of spice and cedar weight on the palate . We really love this one and it’s time to say, “I’ll have a glass of 2014 Norma Jeane.”

Similar profile to recent earlier releases, garnet colored, opaque, lean, somewhat flabby and austere, vegetal green pepper and black olive character overshadows any berry fruit, turning to tangy spice with tone of wet wood and hints of grass. Like previous years, buy it for fun and the label, not the contents. Indeed, people will.

RM 84 points.