Merlot for the Masses

Written By: 
James Ginley

Soft and mellow, it’s a favorite for many

Chateau Cruzeau St. Emilion Grand Cru 2013

St. Emilion, France, $27

St. Emilion is the epitome of Merlot from the right bank of Bordeaux, and this inexpensive Grand Cru delivers a good value. Bright garnet color with a full nose of red fruit followed by bold flavors of herb, mint and tobacco. Aged 12 months in barrels and vats, resulting in a well-balanced blend of mostly Merlot and a combination of the other red Bordeaux blending grapes. The impressive Chateau was built in the 16th century.

Charles Smith Velvet Devil Merlot 2014

Washington State, $16

Try anything from this guy. Lively cherry aromas with added cola and nutmeg flavor linger on the palate, plus nuances of cedar and light tobacco on the finish. With long, crazy hair, winemaker Smith has created many unusual concoctions and operates from Jet City, his unique wine operation next to the Seattle airport. His “Modernist Project” mantra is: enjoy wine immediately!

Markham Merlot 2014

Napa Valley, California, $18

Rich in boysenberry fruit and juicy red fruits throughout, this label consistently pleases the most discerning Merlot lover. Touches of cola and chocolate blend together and enhance the mellow tannins of this big and bold wine. 86 percent Merlot, 12 percent Cabernet and 2 percent Petit Sirah is the blend from Old World grapes. Enjoy with your favorite dish or lightly spiced foods.

Santa Ema Merlot Reserve 2013

Maipo Valley, Chile, $14

Old World (European) grapes were successfully transplanted to South America, and this is one of the best examples: Merlot from Chile. Blackberry, plum and dark cherry aromas fill the nose and show a deep violet color. Fruity, with intense notes of caramel and chocolate. Soft, ripe tannins create balance on the palate, while spice and cherry complete the finish. Earned 90 points from Wine Spectator.

Flora Springs Napa Merlot 2014

Napa Valley, California, $28

Boysenberry and ripe cherry aromas with layers of vanilla and cocoa, plus a tad of nutmeg. This Merlot sits in your mouth with cherry and blackberry flavors and a sliver of oak. Good structure brings forth chocolate and tobacco on the finish. Well-balanced enough to enjoy with many dishes. This vineyard has grown grapes since the 1800s, with the current ownership assuming control in 1978.

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PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF THE WINERIES