The 2004 movie Sideways really changed people’s perception of the merlot grape. Wine snob character Miles Raymond’s famous rant in the movie, “Anybody orders merlot and I am leaving. I am not drinking any f***ing merlot!” sure changed the dynamics of wine drinking.

To this day, bitter notes still linger. Just because someone brings a bottle of merlot to your dinner party doesn’t mean you can go all Paul Giamatti on them. Can’t we all just get along? Wine is supposed to be fun. Heck, Wine Spectator named the 2014 Duckhorn merlot, Napa Valley Three Palms Vineyard, their 2017 Wine of the Year. Is this a sign that merlot is making an aromatic comeback?

I assembled an eight-person tasting panel. (Actually, my roommate from college came to town, and next thing I know we have eight over for dinner. Little did they know, they had to work their dinner off by trying six bottles of merlot.)

The results of our tasting were Miles away from Giamatti’s perceptions. There wasn’t a bad wine in the bunch. Merlot is actually a very food-friendly wine. Here’s what we tasted, and some pairing notes:

Chateau Pilet Bordeaux ($12.99). We started out with this mostly merlot blend from France and paired it with our appetizers. Excellent with white bean dip, fresh majhoul dates, and Piave cheese. A super-easy drinker with good fruit and hints of terroir on the finish. Buy it at Heinen’s or One Red Door in Hudson, West Point Market, Miles Farmers Market Solon, and Regency Wines in Fairlawn.

Rabble ($15.99). LOTS of dark fruits. Blueberry pie and elderberry notes. An excellent choice on its own. (The colorful embossed label is way too cool!) Also paired nicely with the medjool dates, Parma Sopressata (Italian salami) and Beemster cheese.

Buy it at Market District Cuyahoga Falls, West Point Market, Mustard Seed Markets, all Heinen’s stores including Brecksville, Hudson, and Miles Market in Solon.

2013 Burgess Merlot ($29.99). In honor of Cuyahoga Falls native Tom Burgess’ passing, we had to try this one from 2013, the last year for Burgess Merlot. “Thanks to that stupid movie ‘Sideways,’ we got out of the merlot business,” said owner Steve Burgess. (His father Tom planted the merlot vineyard back in 1972.) “It didn’t matter how good the wine was. It’s merlot. You couldn’t sell it,” quipped Steve. “It’s a shame. Killed by a movie.”

The wine was stellar. A definite favorite of the group. A sensational homage to a great man. Lots of dark fruit with a silky finish. Paired nicely with our mushroom risotto.

Buy it at Acme Cuyahoga Falls and Hudson, Papa Joe’s, West Point Market, Kirbie’s Meats & Catering, 750 ml. Papa Joe’s also has it by the glass.

2014 Stags’ Leap Merlot ($36.99). We had this with the mushroom risotto also. Wow! The earthiness of the mushrooms was a great match with the rich fruit. This bottle was re-gifted to me from a disgruntled wine snob friend, so I was particularly pleased the wine was fantastic.

Buy it at West Point Market, Mustard Seed Markets, Buehler’s Medina.

2014 Mondavi Merlot ($23.99). We ran out of adjectives to describe how well this wine went with the grilled pork tenderloin. Definitely a wine that I will buy again.

Find it at Acme Hudson, West Point Market, Market District Cuyahoga Falls and Green, every Giant Eagle area store.

2015 Hourglass HGIII Red Blend ($49.99). We tasted our way up to the crescendo! Boy, is merlot misunderstood. Pork tenderloin, mushroom risotto, good friends. Damn good! (OK, I have surpassed the amount of swear words allowed in one wine column. But the first one was Giamatti’s fault.)

You can find the wine at West Point Market, Market District Cuyahoga Falls, Miles Market in Solon, Heinen’s Chagrin Falls, Cellar 59, 750 ml in Akron and Sylvester’s North End Grille Canton.

Read more Phil Your Glass wine stories at www.ohio.com/akron/writers/phil-masturzo. Contact him at philyourglass@gmail.com.