Retailer Wine Selections
The Beverage Dynamics National Retailer Wine Panel recommends a lineup of top quality/value merlots.
Generally speaking, merlot’s rich fruit and soft texture is driving it toward becoming one of the red wines of choice for American consumers. With this in mind, we asked members of the Beverage Dynamics National Retailer Wine Panel to recommend some merlots they have recently tasted. As always, these selections include brief tasting notes, a rating and the wine’s suggested retail price (which varies from market to market).
— Richard Brandes
* * * * * Five Stars (92-100) A top-flight wine. Superior in taste and character and providing an outstanding price/value relationship.
* * * * Four Stars (86-91) A very good wine and an excellent value. A wine for which customers will keep coming back.
* * * Three Stars (80-85) An above-average wine, at a reasonable price point, which many customers will enjoy.
* * Two Stars (70-79) An average wine.
* One Star (50-69) A below-average wine.
***** (94) Chateau St. Jean 1999 Sonoma Merlot (California). Lots of red currant and berry fruit; big and lush; layered nicely at the end with vanilla and toasty oak; not a merlot for the shy. ($24)
***** (93) Edgewood 1998 Napa Valley Merlot (California). Silky and accessible with tiers of bright berry flavors, lots of complexity and a seamless finish; Napa merlot at its best. ($25)
***** (93) 1998 Chateau Picampeau, Lussac St. Emilion (France). Born in the clay and limestone soils on the hills north of St. Emilion, this wine is a pleasure to drink; blend of 80% merlot and 20% cabernet sauvignon, it has flavors of cassis and blueberry and velvety tannins; wonderfully rounded and most enjoyable. ($15)
***** (92) Swanson 1999 Napa Valley Merlot (California). Currant, cherry and cedar, from the noticeable, firm tannins; concentrated anise and black olive and bittersweet chocolate on the finish; balanced with a depth of flavors. ($28)
***** (92) Forman 1999 Merlot (California). This intensely flavored wine delivers the goods; deep purple in color, it offers plenty of sweet black cherry and berry fruit; full-bodied with low acidity, this wine is very good now and over the next 7-10 years. ($40)
***** (92) Rodney Strong 1997 Alexander Valley Merlot (California). Looks good; smells good; tastes good; rich plum and cherry; dense; big but elegant with a long, lingering finish; not many better California merlots. ($26)
***** (92) Chateau Ste. Michelle 1998 Cold Creek Vineyard Merlot (Washington State). Packed with fruit showing focused flavors of currant and sweet black cherry; hints of spice and vanilla add interest to this well-balanced merlot. ($28)
***** (92) Canoe Ridge 1999 Columbia Valley Merlot (Washington State). Bright and forward with distinctive cherry and black currant flavors; dense flavors linger on the finish; approachable now and will develop with cellaring. ($25)
***** (92) Sterling 1997 Reserve Merlot (California). Full-bodied with well-integrated tannins; berry flavors round out this medium-weight merlot. ($70)
***** (92) Columbia Crest 1998 Columbia Valley Reserve Merlot (Washington State). Complex flavors of blackberries, mocha, cloves with a sweet cedar-oak wood taste; a long, smooth finish; a terrific wine. ($25)
**** (91) 1999 Geyser Peak 1999 Sonoma County Merlot (California). A wine of unmistakable quality; the stylish yet rich, it begins and ends with a persistent flow of delicious black fruit flavors; nicely textured, this wine is superbly satisfying on the palate; reasonable price point; best served 2002-2003). ($19.50)
**** (91) Cold Water Creek 1999 Napa Valley Merlot (California). Succulent and polished with classy plum and blueberry flavors; plush, ripe tannins. ($15).
**** (91) 1999 Chateau Martet, Les Hauts De Martet, Sainte-Foy-Bordeaux (France). This wine hails from a region in Bordeaux not often seen in this country — Sainte-Foy, located close to St. Emilion; the merlot grape sets the tone for this wines wine; soft, juicy and generous, this will be mistaken for a much more expensive wine. ($13)
**** (91) Veramonte Alto de Casablanca 2000 Merlot (Chile). Soft and silky flavors of spicy oak; a real good value; tastes like it’s twice the price. ($10)
**** (90) Carmenet 1999 Dynamite Merlot (California). Ripe and persistent, this wine excels in its presentation of cassis, sweet earth and creamy; elegant enough for coq au vin, and deep enough to hold its own with a generous helping of baby back ribs, there are few meat entrées that would not welcome a chance to be served with this wine; best served 2002-2004. ($17)
**** (90) Falesco 2000 Merlot dell’Umbria (Italy). Deep purple with thick aromas of chocolate, blackberries and cherry; medium-bodied with ripe fruit and sweet tannins that go along with a long lingering finish; a good value to drink now and over the next 5 years. ($17)
**** (90) Marilyn Merlot 1999 Napa Valley Merlot (California). This wine tastes as great as the label looks; stunningly seductive with smooth, full body and a luscious finish. ($24)
**** (90) Bridgman 1999 Columbia Valley Merlot (Washington State). Waves of dark fruit and spice nuances; hand-crafted; a wonderful expression of classy merlot. ($18)
**** (90) 1999 Chateau Cadillac-Branda, Bordeaux Rouge (France). Located in the Fronsac vicinity, the Lesgourgues family has been fashioning delicious wines that are drinkable upon release; a blend of 80% merlot and 20% cabernet sauvignon, its the former variety that, not surprisingly, dictates this wine’s softness and drinkability. ($9)