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


(97) Frazier Napa Valley Merlot 2007 (California). Full bodied and robust; a huge wine with lots of berry flavors; Bill Frazier helped make great merlot at Stag’€™s Leap and his own offerings are just stunning. ($40)


(95) Saddleback Napa Merlot 2005 (California). This is a spectacular merlot; big, bold and luscious; the tannins are fading so the balance is excellent; a real masterpiece. ($37)

(95) Little Stone Vineyard Napa Valley Merlot 2006 (California). A bouquet of wild flower leads to mouth-filling flavors of currant, plum and black cherry; 18 months in oak adds a touch of vanilla. ($16)


(94) Meerlust Stellenbosch Merlot 2005 (South Africa). Very rustic with hints of black tea, toast, and currants, followed onto the palate along with flavors of vanilla and blueberry; long and toasty finish; well balanced with nice firm tannins that will help this wine age gracefully. ($30)

(94) Hagafen Estate Napa Merlot 2007 (California). Layers of red and dark fruits- plum, cherry and blackberries through the palate; a subtle spice characteristic blended through with the soft tannins; kosher as well. ($30)

(93) Angeline Sonoma Merlot 2009 (California). Soft tannins frame this great example of California merlot that does not need to be pricey; fresh and fruit forward, filled with blueberry, cherry and vanilla notes. ($14)

(93) Whitehall Lane Napa Merlot 2007 (California). Rich, bold, and concentrated with layers of cherry, blackberry, cassis, chocolate and a hint of spice flavors; nice depth in the mid-palate which leads to a touch of oak on a long, lingering finish. ($29)

(93) Pepperbridge Merlot 1997 (Washington State). Dense, luscious flavors of ripe raspberries and currants; hints of cinnamon and touches of dark chocolate add complexity to the pretty fruit; this supple merlot finishes with a core of dark red fruits and a long, persistent, velvety texture. ($50)

(92) Decoy Napa Valley Merlot 2008 (California). This merlot offers that classic Duckhorn structure but is designed to drink now; wonderful fruit with an ever so slight hint of cedar embedded in the rich berry. ($24)

(92) Duckhorn Napa Merlot 2007 (California). A bouquet of plums, cherries and vanilla; fig, current and cedar coat the palate; spice and a soft mouthfeel lead to a lingering finish with hearty tannins and depth. ($59)

(92) Bookwalter Foreshadow Merlot 2008 (Washington State). This wine exhibits intense color and concentration of fruit; notes of blueberry, plum and spice; dense and focused on the palate; the long finish suggests a wine that will only improve with cellaring. ($40)

(92) Stags’€™ Leap Winery Napa Valley Merlot 2007 (California). A big, rich red with delicious black fruit flavors; the finish lingers beautifully on and on. ($35)

(92) Monticello Estate Merlot 2006 (California). Always a power-packed, flavorful yet refined wine from this well-established Napa Valley family winery, this merlot is often referred to as the ‘€œcab-drinker’€™s merlot’€ because of its big fruit flavors and great balance of tannins and acidity; a great wine. ($24)

(92) Clos Du Val Napa Valley Merlot 2007 (California). Black fruit aroma; blackberries, black cherry, currant flavors; substantial tannins; long finish. ($28)

(92) Alterra Napa Merlot 2009 (California). Bright cherry and blueberry with hints of licorice on the palate, complemented by notes of cedar on the nose; soft tannins give this wine good structure. ($12)


(91) Burgess Napa Merlot 2006 (California). This winery has been around for years, and we tend to overlook some of the ‘€œold timers’€; big, bold and delightful; this is what California merlot is all about. ($27)

(91) Chateau St. Jean Sonoma Merlot 2007 (California). Ripe and generous, soft-textured with plum, currant and blackberry character that extends into a solid finish, echoing plum and spice. ($21)

(91) Canoe Ridge Merlot 2005 (Washington State). Expressions of mocha, dark berry, subtle nuttiness on the back end, and just enough acidity on the side palate to allow all the flavors to work in harmony together; a great value; good with food or standing alone. ($19)

(91) Crosby Merlot 2009 (California). Not a familiar name, but should be; medium body; smooth and silky; balanced fruit and tannin, not overly extracted; real value. ($9)

(91) Chateau Ste. Michelle Merlot 2001 (Washington State). Appealing aromas of ripe blackberry and vanilla; bold but not over the top; a well-made wine. ($18)

(91) Cloud Break Merlot 2009 (California). Bright, fresh fruit that makes this a favorite; nice soft tannins balance the bing cherry and wild berries. ($8)

(91) Freemark Abbey Napa Merlot 2007 (California). Lovely berry, plum, chocolate and wood on the nose with flavors to match; lovely supple tannins. ($23)

(91) Five Star Cellars Merlot 2007 (Washington State). This Walla Walla merlot has a lovely ruby shade; sweet fruit and flowers on the nose; black cherries, blackberries and coffee flavors lead to a long finish; needs decanting. ($34)

(91) Seven Hills Columbia Valley Merlot 2008 (Washington State). Great sweet berries, vanilla and mocha on the nose; sweet fruit persists on the palate with very soft tannins; nice value. ($19)

(91) Flora Springs Merlot 2007 (California). Deep, rich and complex with layers of flavors; balance of fruit and oak and a finish that is wonderful now, and will continue to develop and lengthen. ($18)

(90) Frei Brothers Dry Creek Reserve Merlot 2007 (California). A robust merlot with the backbone of a cabernet; rich berry fruit surrounded by balanced tannin and acidity; delicious. ($20)

(90) Rombauer Merlot 2007 (California). Clean, dry, medium-bodied with nicely balanced blackberry fruit and soft tannins; a long delicious finish. ($33)

(90) Milbrandt Vineyards Traditions Columbia Valley Merlot 2008 (Washington State). A more extracted style of merlot that offers dark cherry and prune notes on the nose; the palate shows hints of dark chocolate, cassis and sage flavors that mingle nicely towards a long and supple finish. ($18)

(90) Bogle Vineyards Merlot 2008 (California). Notes of fig on the nose that transition to a palate that is smooth and polished, with supple blackberry and cherry flavors; well focused, finishing with a soft toasty oak edge. ($14)

(90) Fog Bank Paso Robles Merlot 2008 (California). Ripe and ready to drink, this stylish merlot offers nice cherry, plum, currant and anise flavors followed by a hint of spice through the supple, soft finish. ($13)

(90) Bodega Norton Mendoza Merlot 2009 (Argentina). Rich, black fruit and lilac aromas lead to zesty, ripe berry and cassis flavors; a sweet, tart finish; excellent value. ($10)

(90) La Joya Reserva Merlot 2008 (Chile). Fragrant and flavorful with soft hints of plum, blueberry and coffee; an elegant, lovely style. ($10)

(90) Chateau Saint-Supice 2006 (Bordeaux, France). Made from 70% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon and 10% cabernet franc in a classic style; earthy with a perfect fruit and tannin balance; good value. ($17)

(90) Chateau Julien Merlot 2008 (California). A chunky and fleshier style of merlot; hints of cocoa and black fruits in the nose; medium-bodied and mouth-filling and a long lasting finish. ($12)

(90) Summit Estates Merlot 2009 (California). An interesting take on merlot- slightly sweeter with a little more residual sugar; regat flavors of toasty marshmallow-y vanilla, cherry and plum; good balance that keeps this from being syrupy or cloying. ($8)

(90) Washington Hills Merlot 2007 (Washington State). Aromas of fresh red cherries lead to smoky flavors and cedar on the finish; very well balanced and wonderful value. ($10)

(90) 181 Merlot 2008 (California). Bordeaux style merlot with notes of cherry and vanilla; flavors of currant and cedar coat your palate; soft lingering finish; exceptional value. ($13)

(89) Bedell Merlot 2007 (Long Island, NY). An excellent value, surprisingly full-bodied and flavorful for the price with classic black fruit notes. ($18)

(89) Twenty Rows Napa Merlot 2008 (California). Made and sold by the owners of Venoce on Mt. Veeder; this highly decorated yet hard to find merlot has it all; lots of body, lots of balance, high acidity; excellent with all kinds of spring meats. ($21)

(89) Chateau St Michelle Indian Wells Merlot 2008 (Washington State). Fruity blackberry nose; blackberries and currants with a hint of mint; nice tannins with a lingering finish. ($17)

(89) Papi Demi-Sec Merlot 2008 (Chile). An unusual merlot that is good for the beginner ‘€œnon-red’€ wine drinker; light, easy and slightly ‘€œsweet’€; super easy drinking. ($4)

(89) Mauvais Garcon Bad Boy Bordeaux 2006 (France). Still a little tight, but very good quality fruit; dark flavors with some leather/tobacco; bit of minerals at the finish. ($24)

(89) Folie à Deux Napa Merlot 2008 (California). This savory merlot is loaded with big berry fruit, a hint of tobacco and blueberry; the finish is satisfying and lingering. ($16)

(88) Rodney Strong Sonoma County Merlot 2006 (California). Always a favorite, soft plum and currant fruit flavors upfront; round and pleasing; nice depth and complexity and a finish that is sure to please. ($16)

(88) Kris Merlot 2007 (Sicily). Easy drinking merlot, with raspberry and blackberry aromas; medium-bodied, with soft, silky tannins and a dark chocolate; fruit and vanilla finish. ($13)

(88) Vina Echeverria Merlot 2008 (Chile). Beautifully made wine and a good bargain; showing red and black fruits; structure and nice purity of flavors; a complete and balanced wine that is not so identifiable to its varietal. ($11)

(88) Barnard Griffin Merlot 2008 (Washington State). Very pretty wine showing lush cherry and blackberry fruit flavors; nice structure and notes of spice and vanilla make this a wine to enjoy now. ($15)

(88) Teldeschi California Merlot 2007 (California). A pretty wine, with lots of upfront fruit and not a lot of tannin; an excellent everyday drinking wine; top price/quality ratio. ($15)

(86) Columbia Winery Merlot 2007 (Washington State). Black fruit aroma; blackberry and black cherry with substantial tannins; nice finish and a good value. ($14)

(86) Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2006 (Washington State). Simple fruit and spice, but this wine is well-structured with nice balance and great consumer appeal. ($9)


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