Appetizers
September 29, 2008
Update 2

This notion of blogging about a story as it is reported and written has had one especially surprising result. The story is about blended wines, more specifically American-made proprietary blended wines, the availability of which looks to be on the rise. I knew going in I couldn't write about these wines without mentioning "meritage" wines. These are wines blended with two or more of the varieties of grapes grown historically in Bordeaux.

At any rate, the international Meritage Association is based in California, where it was founded 20 years ago, and since has grown to more than 200 member wineries. If you visit the association's Web site, you learn that the term "meritage" was the winning entry in a national contest. According to the association, "meritage" is a blend itself, a portmanteau word that combines "merit" (for quality) and "heritage" (for the Bordeaux tradition of blending wines).

That isn't how Neil Edgar remembers it, however, and as the person who came up with the winning entry, he should know. When the contest was held, Edgar was living in the East Bay and working as an assistant manager for the Alpha Beta chain of grocery stores. He now lives in Elk Grove, works as a consultant to waste-management and recycling companies, and got in touch when he saw our recent items here about blended wines.

A longtime wine enthusiast, Edgar says that in responding to the contest he got out his dictionary, several wine books and began to play with different possible names for the prospective association. Eventually, he pared down his two favorite candidates - "American montage" - into "meritage." He's more amused than irked by the association's spin on the term's history, and isn't at all peeved that the group also says it's to be pronounced "mer-eh-tij" instead of the "mer-eh-tazh" he envisioned. "I got over it, it's been 20 years," Edgar says.

His prize for coming up with the winning entry was to be two bottles of each "meritage" wine made by member wineries for 10 years. He figures he got about a fourth of the total due him, but he isn't complaining. He got plenty of "meritage" wines, enjoyed many of them, and gave others to family members, colleagues, friends and charities.

"I haven't gotten any in six months or so, but I don't know what I'd do with it all anyway. It's more than I can drink," Edgar says. He's still a "meritage" fan, but also is keen on zinfandel, sangiovese, shiraz, pinot noir, gewurztraminer and riesling. "Unfortunately, I didn't name any of them."

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