CLEVELAND, Ohio - Heinen's has scheduled a series of four tastings pitting eight Merlots around the world in a March Madness-style tournament.
The tastings will be held at all 23 Heinen's locations - 19 in Northeast Ohio and four in Greater Chicago.
The folks at the store took to a bracketology approach, pitting wines from California, Washington, France, Chile and Argentina.
Samples are $1. No reservations are needed. The tournament will be 1-4 p.m. every Saturday in March. Each store's managers will keep track of which wines are preferred. Here's the schedule:
March 4: Opening round, California and the West Coast - Napa Valley Markham vs. Sonoma, Alexander Valley Vineyards; Velvet Devil in Washington vs. Firestone of Southern California.
March 11: Opening round, France and Aresbet South America - Pomerol, Chateau Sablard of Bordeaux vs. Saint-Emilion, Chateau Divan; Santa Ema Reserve of Chile vs. Tilia of Argentina.
March 18: Semifinals - California vs. West Coast and France vs. South America.
March 25: Finals - California-West Coast winner vs. France-South America winner.
It's the first time the store has done this, said Ed Thompkins, wine buyer for Heinen's.
"It's just a fun way to engage an audience with something that's kind of timely," he said. "Merlot is in a category that should be embraced. And with these vintages ... you're getting Cabernet flavors delivered for a lot less. If people like Cabernet there's no reason they shouldn't like Merlot.
"Merlot is poised to have a renaissance - not as a fad, but it's really good stuff day to day - easy to drink, fun, compelling and interesting."
The other bracket - the NCAA men's basketball tournament - runs Tuesday, March 14, through Monday, April 3.
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