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Rediscovering Merlot


The much-maligned merlot has made a comeback. In my opinion, it makes for the best red wines from Washington (with the exception of a few syrahs). Merlot has always been a lead grape for right-bank Bordeauxs like Saint-Emilion, and that includes cheval blanc, the ironic favorite of merlot detractor Miles Raymond (Sideways).

The panel's top merlot picks bore out the quality of both regions, with two from Washington and one from France topping the list.

2015 Chateau des Landes Lussac-Saint-Emilion Cuvee Prestige, $39.00

This is a wine that starts out really good and just gets better and better. The floral aromas are highlighted by dark cherry fruit backed by anise, chocolate, vanilla, spice and just a kiss of oak. This is a well-structured wine with a silky core of raspberry, currant and cassis lingering nicely on the long, velvety finish. It's pricey but definitely worth it.

2015 Crossfork Creek Merlot, $18.99

In this second label for renowned Sheridan Vineyard in the Yakima Valley, the pedigree shows. Blackberry liqueur aromas lead off, followed by touches of coconut and chocolate. There's a nice hit of oaky vanilla on the palate, but it's well integrated, blending with the creamy fruit flavors. Just a hint of dill comes through on the finish.

2015 Seven Hills Merlot, $25

This is a rich but well-balanced fruit bomb of a red—a quintessential Columbia Valley merlot. There's a light minerality to the spicy, ripe cherry and berry aromas. It's definitely fruit-forward, with bright blueberry and dark stone fruit flavors, balanced by racy acidity. Seven Hills has vineyards dating back to 1980, making it something of a pioneer in Eastern Washington.