Bottom Line: A pair of gulpers from a name long synonymous with large volumes of housewife Merlot - both surprisingly friendly and worthy of further investigation.
The Rest Of The Story: (Disclosure: these wines were received as press samples and tasted blind.) At one point in time Blackstone Merlot was the most served wine in restaurants in this country. WOW. Just a guess, but that might've also been around the same time that Lewinsky woman was all over the news. Berets were in fashion and, apparently, so was Merlot.
Since then Blackstone has become so commonplace (Jesus, even the local Shell station stocks it) that it's nearly faded into the background of the wine scene. All but forgotten and ignored, the Blackstone label is making a bit of a comeback with the introduction of their Sonoma Reserve line - an interesting move to help breathe new life into the brand and give it a lift.
Now, before you turn your nose up at these common wines, consider that we found them to be friendly as hell and with quality matching their respective price points. (There is a benefit to tasting blind, after all.) These two Merlots ended up back to back - by pure coincidence - in a blind line up. There's enough similarity between them to tell that they might be related, but, seriously, this stuff is made is such huge quantities and, well, read the tasting notes...
2008 Blackstone Merlot Winemaker's Select
Big, fruity nose - like pop music: loud, fresh, boisterous and a little shallow. Medium-bodied and positively crowd-friendly, this wine might lack distinction, but it also lacks suckiness. Uncomplicated and smooth, analysis defies identification of the varietal as one would suspect it's been manipulated, blended, and oaked into submission. But, hey, who doesn't like cheap thrills on a Tuesday night? Gulper. SRP is $11, but you'll find it for $8-9 most places.
2007 Blackstone Merlot Sonoma Reserve
Elegant color, regal nose with a solid core of fruit, blended mild spices, and a touch of oak. Tastes pleasant and balanced without being serious. On the lighter side of medium-bodied. Immediately approachable - no air time needed. It's not a wine with a big, deep, complex soul, but it is friendly as hell. Decent finish. Gulper that doesn't drink like a Merlot. SRP is $20, but you'll find it for $15-ish.