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I'm Drinkin' Merlot

The maligned varietal makes a comeback


It has been almost a decade since that pinot-pushing movie Sideways sucker-punched merlot, resulting in declining popularity and sales for the grape. Miles' disdain for the grape is a bit ironic when you consider his prized bottle of Cheval Blanc is a blend of merlot and cabernet franc (another grape he dismissed). Thankfully, the variety has made a comeback, and rightfully so. Merlot makes a lovely, fruit-forward, accessible wine that works as well on it's own as it does with food. We went a little up scale this week. After all, it's the holiday season.

2006 Bianchi Particular Merlot, $27

Produced by Argentina's Valentin Bianchi from its very beginning in 1928, this wine was originally just for family and friends. It opens with lovely aromas of cherry liqueur and spicy boysenberry, with touches of anise, mocha and leather. There are lots of lush blueberry and cherry fruit on the smooth, mellow palate. Soft oak and creamy chocolate come through on the velvety finish.

2008 MercerMerlot, $24

Merlot is the grape that, in the 1980s, helped give Washington a well-deserved reputation for producing world-class wines. Mercer was around then and is still going strong today as this effort proves with its spicy plum and earthy berry aromas. This is a lean and lively wine that grows more expressive with time in the glass. The flavors are marked by silky blueberry, with a touch of mint and soft tannins on the finish.

2008 TwomeyMerlot, $43

Twomey is the maiden name of Silver Oak founder Ray Duncan's mother. It is the merlot venture for this famed California cabernet producer and opens with lightly tart black cherry aromas that meld nicely with nuances of nutmeg, chocolate and earth. This is an elegantly structured wine with round, ripe cherry fruit flavors, backed by subtle green and kalamata olives. Soft tannins add grip on the long supple finish.