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