Retailer Wine Selections

For this issue, we asked members of the Beverage Dynamics National Retailer Wine Panel to recommend their favorite merlots. As always, these selections include brief tasting notes, a rating and the wine’€™s retail price (which varies from store to store and market to market). If you’€™re a retail beverage professional who would like to learn about participating in our panel, call Richard Brandes at 212-353-3832, or email him at rbrandes@m2media360.com

FIVE STARS

(98) Verite La Muse 2003 (California). Verite’€™s Pomerol style merlot La Muse 2003 is finally opening beautifully enough to be enjoyed without decanting; a spicy nose combines blackberry, chocolate and cohiba; seductive and indulgent on the palate, subtle yet complex with a lingering finish; as the tannins have begun to soften, it should reach its peak between now and 2020. ($159)

(96) Leonetti Merlot 2010 (Washington State). Gorgeous nose of black fruits with a lush, balanced and elegant mouthfeel; the finish is epic, lingering for minutes. ($80)

(95) Frog’€™s Leap Napa Valley Merlot 2009 (California). Dark Plum in color, deep dark cherry and cocoa flavors together produce a very rich and beautiful merlot. ($40)

(94) Shafer Merlot Napa Valley 2009 (California). Father-and-son duo, John and Doug, create this merlot teeming with black fruit, earth and cigar box on the nose; a prime example of a quality Napa merlot; full bodied, lush and balanced. ($53)

(94) Osso Anna Napa Valley Merlot 2009 (California). Once allowed to breathe for at least two hours this wine opens up and offers a true wine-drinking experience; the fruit is married together perfectly and framed in a beautiful house of tannin and acidity. ($23)

(94) Chateau De La Haute Libarde Cotes De Bourg 2009 (France). Made from 80% merlot and 20% cabernet sauvignon aged a year in oak barrels, it’€™s a lovely example of this AOC; rich and earthy, with black fruit aromas and flavors that balance with firm tannins; from a great vintage, this can be cellared for five years or more for optimum enjoyment. ($18)

(94) Chateau Ste. Michelle Canoe Ridge Estate Merlot 2008 (Washington State). Purple, plump and lush; opens with a nose of black current and brambleberry; voluptuous but not flabby, with a fine acid center balanced with dark chocolate. ($20)

(93) Northstar Merlot Columbia Valley 2008 (Washington State). Deep royal purple color and a plush velvety mouthfeel balanced with brightness and just enough tannin to complement a rotisserie leg-of-lamb; a well-made, balanced Columbia Valley AVA blend. ($35)

(93) Chateau Bellevue Bordeaux Superieur 2009 (France). Made from 60% merlot, 30% cabernet sauvignon, and 10% malbec; nose of lilac and red fruit leads to zesty flavors of currant and blackberry, ending with a hint of spice; firm tannins. ($15)

(93) Angeline Sonoma County Reserve Merlot 2010 (California). This is the companion label of Martin Ray; the fruit is sourced from hillside vineyards in Sonoma County that yield a bold, fruit-forward wine that’€™s balanced with soft, supple tannins and is simply delicious; enjoy it tonight with a grilled steak. ($14)

(93) Cousino Macul Don Matias Merlot 2010 (Chile). Slightly oaked, this merlot shows excellent complexity and concentration; lush cassis and rich currant flavors fill the palate with dense fruit flavors and a touch of spiciness that lingers on the expressive finish; pairs well with grilled meats and chops. ($16)

(93) Decoy Napa Valley Merlot 2009 (California). Big, bold, aromatic and mouth-filling with layers of subtle ripe blackberry, red cherry and plum. ($27)

(93) Trefethen Oak Knoll District Napa Merlot 2007 (California). The nose on this is amazing: full of violets and red cherry with hints of strawberry and vanilla; at five years old it is still developing; overall it needs time, but all the quality elements are there waiting to meld together; worthy of a glass now, but with each year of cellaring it will improve. ($29)

(93) Yvon Mau Merlot Vins De Pays De L’€™aude 2010 (France). Vintage after vintage, this 100% varietal wine shows bright, ripe flavors of berry and cherry with hints of tobacco and ‘€œterroir’€ that say ‘€œLanguedoc’€; eminently drinkable and a great value. ($10)

(92) Darioush Signature Merlot 2009 (California). Classic black fruit aromas and flavors; big, rich and complex with a long finish that just doesn’€™t quit. ($56)

(92) Hall Merlot 2006 (California). Succulent and spicy with just the right balance of fruit and acidity; a superb Napa merlot for the price. ($26)

(92) Ballentine Napa Valley Pocai Vineyard Merlot 2009 (California). The bouquet is light but smooth, with a creamy sense to its lovely, ripe black cherry and plum aromas; excellent balance and structure on the palate, with smooth and supple black fruit flavors, silky tannin and a long finish. ($25)

(92) Monticello Estate Merlot 2008 (California). Always considered the ‘€œCab Drinkers Merlot,’€ this wine showcases and artisan approach while still remaining accessible to the everyday consumer; rich with a spicy backbone; smooth finish. ($25)

(92) Markham Napa Merlot 2008 (California). Markham consistently produces polished reds of high quality; this Napa merlot has deep raspberry and milk chocolate aromas that slide into blackberry, rose, mint, and soft oak notes on the palate; the length is luxurious and the balance is impeccable. ($19)

(92) Martin Ray Diamond Mountain Merlot 2009 (California). A merlot for the cab drinker; beautiful dark fruit, with blackberry, black cherry, currant; layered in are notes of cocoa and spice; firms tannins, elegant silken texture in the mouth. ($15)

FOUR STARS

(91) Chateau Barbe Blanche Lussac St Emilion 2009 (France). From the village of Lussac in the commune of Saint ‘€“Emilion, this blend of merlot with just a touch of cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon offers black cherry and blueberry aromas, good concentration with layers of blackberry, currant with oak nuances sustained by well-rounded tannins that lead to a smooth, balanced finish. ($25)

(91) Goldschmidt Chelsea Merlot 2009 (California). Superstar winemaker Nick Goldschmidt does it again with this amazing effort; drinking like a much more expensive wine, the Chelsea Merlot has layers of flavor and complexity that are sure to impress. ($16)

(90) Twomey Napa Valley Merlot 2007 (California). Blackberry and plum on the nose, with blackberry and plum following through on the taste; medium tannins with a fairly long finish. ($39)

(91) Seven Hills Columbia Valley Merlot 2009 (Washington State). Seven Hills is able to fold in plenty of red and black fruit and vanilla into a silky and luscious wine. ($21)

(91) Chateau Lescalle Bordeaux Superieur 2009 (France). Hailing from the Macau, Ch. Lescalle shows plenty of fruit, but never lets you forget where it comes from. ($17)

(91) Happy Canyon Vineyard Santa Ynez Merlot 2010 (California). Earthy and fruity on the nose; palate offers great balance with vibrant fruit and soft tannins; great varietal expression from the eastern Santa Ynez Valley; the newest AVA in Santa Barbara County is one to watch. ($18)

(91) Compass Merlot 2007 (California). This complex merlot from Sonoma is packed with aromas of your father’€™s cherry Cavendish pipe tobacco and leather; full bodied, dusty mouthfeel; big juicy wine with earthy leather in the finish. ($13)

(91) Wente Sandstone Merlot 2009 (California). A nice, elegant, well-balanced merlot with polished flavors of black cherry, cassis and plum that showcase Karl Wente’€™s winemaking skills as well as his management of the fruit coming out of the Livermore Valley; a great value. ($11)

(90) Folie a Deux Sonoma County Merlot 2010 (California). A merlot that doesn’€™t let you down; lots of big black cherry fruit and layers of accents flavors like vanilla; the tannin and acidity are firm allowing this wine to be enjoyed over time. ($15)

(90) Bridgman Merlot 2008 (Washington State). Ripe with good acidity to balance out the sweet cherry and black plum flavors; exotic spice notes that linger throughout; good structure, nice finish of firm tannins. ($15)

(90) Ghost Pines Sonoma & Napa Merlot 2009 (California). A blend of fruit from Sonoma and Napa; Napa lends structure and Sonoma adds berry fruit; French oak lends coffee and chocolate notes. ($19)

(90) Abbeyville Napa Valley Merlot 2010 (California). Napa Valley at a reasonable price; a seductive aroma; full flavors of cassis and a hint of cocoa with a long finish. ($11)

(90) Mercer Columbia Valley Merlot 2008 (Washington State). A cabernet drinker’€™s merlot; dry, soft tannins, nice complexity and a long finish. ($20)

(90) Katnook Estate Coonawarra, Founder’€™s Estate Merlot 2008 (Australia). Earthy truffle notes open the bouquet, and then ripe plum moves in to add some further dimension; full-bodied and quite ripe but there is enough acidity to sharpen things up and enhance the definition across the palate. ($20)

(90) Chateau Ste Michelle Indian Wells Merlot 2009 (Washington State). Ripe and jammy aromas lead to well-rounded, full-bodied merlot; soft, lingering finish. ($19)

(90) Joseph Carr Napa Valley Merlot 2009 (California). Ripe, boisterous and brambly in the nose, this also displays some herbal undertones leading off until ripe black fruit notes emerge; medium bodied, it is ripe yet dry, and there is a nice tannic edge lending structure and balance; plenty of fruit, even if it seems a bit understated, and good balance. ($19)

(90) Long Board Dakine Vineyard Merlot 2008 (California). The Dakine Vineyard merlot has very ripe fruit and soft rich tannins which produce a well balanced merlot full of texture. ($25)

(90) Benziger Merlot 2009 (California). The sustainable farming at Benziger showcases the merlot; great fruit up front with a velvety texture in a rich finish. ($15)

(90) Lindemans Limestone Coast Reserve Merlot 2009 (Australia). An undervalued wine; good structure with deep and sweet dark cherry and blackberry flavors; easy tannins. ($9)

(90) Perimeter Merlot 2010 (Washington State). Rich, with sumptuous flavors of ripe blackberry, dark cherry and sweet spice flavors; offers a full bodied mid-palate picking up notes of chocolate and ending with a vibrant long finish. ($13)

(90) Kinneybrook Sonoma Merlot 2009 (California). Made by the Kunde Family, which has a long history of making varietally correct wines; nice balanced acidity to pair with fresh ripe red fruit of cherries and berries; hints of herb flavors; good tannis and nice structure. ($17)

(90) Castle Rock Napa Valley Merlot 2008 (California). Another impressive release from Castle Rock, featuring layers of flavor and a harmonious finish. ($14).

(90) Girly Girl Columbia Valley Merlot 2008 (Washington State). Despite its feminine packaging, the wine offers a full-bodied merlot with dark berries and chocolate. ($17)

(89) Columbia Crest H3, Horse Heaven Hills Merlot 2009 (Washington State). A nose of black raspberry and licorice welcomes you to a taste of chocolate-covered cherry with a hint of plum-peel tartness; for a big, extracted wine, it retains a nice acidity; a bargain just in time for grilling out. ($15)

(89) Ca’€™Momi Merlot 2009 (California). Wines from this producer have always been those that are great for the price and display straightforward fruit; plenty of purple and black fruit with some light spice on the finish; enjoyable and easy to drink. ($13)

(89) Chateau Des Hauts De Fonteneau 2009 Bordeaux Superieur (France). Made from 80% merlot and 20% cabernet sauvignon; a classic Bordeaux bouquet, with ripe black fruit aromas, oak, cedar and earth undertones; fruit is forward on the palate and almost gushy on the entry, but in reigns in nicely by the mid-palate; ripe red cherry, strawberry and raspberry, with some richer currant in the aftertaste. ($13)

(89) Crosby Merlot 2010 (California). Not a well-known name, but excellent value/quality level; nice round, ripe cherry fruits with a hint of vanilla, ($9)

(88) Yalumba ‘€œY’€ Series Merlot 2009 (Australia). The Yalumba Y Series Merlot is an intense garnet red and displays aromas of sweet raspberries and currants; the palate is youthful and bright with juicy fruit, medium tannins and mid-length finish. ($13)

(88) Maison Nicolas Reserve Bordeaux Merlot 2010 (France). Intense nose of red and black fruits; smooth and well balanced with a lingering fruit finish; good everyday value. ($12)

(88) Nice Legs California Merlot 2009 (California). The bouquet is very mild but there are some nicely creamy cassis aromas; medium bodied and nicely round on the palate, with tasty red and black cherry flavors that gain intensity and depth across the palate; good balance and length; well done. ($10)

(88) Grayson Cellars Lot 6 Merlot 2010 (California). Silky smooth and in the fruit forward camp, juicy black cherry and raspberry beg for another sip; a top merlot in the $10 range. ($10)

(88) Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2008 (Washington State). This Merlot has a rich and supple mouthfeel with flavors of blackberry and a mild hint of cherry; the structure is abundant yet allowing all the luscious fruit to be the showstopper. ($12)

(88) Field Stone Alexander Valley Merlot 2007 (California). A deep, complex merlot with pronounced oak notes; sustainably grown in the Alexander Valley. ($16)

(87) Mutt Lynch Merlot Over and Play Dead 2007 (California). Smoke and cherry aromas lead to black currant flavors; soft tannins in this medium-bodied merlot; pair with grilled lamb or a chocolate treat. ($11)

(87) Red Diamond Merlot 2009 (Washington State). A good wine to share with a large gathering without spending too much; layers of fruit and a touch of oak to give it some complexity. ($8)

(87) Santa Ema Merlot 2010 (Chile). Smooth, dry, medium-bodied , clean and flavorful; outstanding value. ($9)

(86) Spellbound Merlot 2009 (California). Pleasant blueberry nose; medium weight with flavors of cherry, mild spice and wood; nice introduction to red wine and the merlot grape. ($16)

(86) Crane Lake Merlot 2010 (California). Great beginner merlot; light and easy drinking; a good party pour. ($5)

(86) Leese Fitch Merlot 2010 (California). Raspberry nose; raspberry and plum flavors; medium tannins and a medium finish; good buy for parties. ($11)

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