It’s Time to Celebrate Washington State Merlot
When you look at a wine list, do you check out the Merlot options? If this varietal hasn’t been on you radar before, it’s time you give it a try. A grape truly worth getting excited about? Absolutely!
Merlot grows in many places of the wine world, but growing merlot grapes that stand on their own requires a very specific climate, one that Eastern Washington provides. The cold nights, wind and arid climate all play a key role in gently stressing the grapes, keeping their skin thick and their flavor concentrated. The result is a grape with great wine making potential.
You can find extraordinary bottles of merlots to choose from. This is an approachable grape varietal that is known for being soft, ripe and elegant. Let’s indulge in some delicious examples of note-worthy Washington State Merlots. We’ll have a full glass please.
DeLille Cellars Merlot
DeLille Cellars 2015 Merlot: A blend of four great vineyards from the Yakima and Red Mountain AVAs. These plots span the four compass points of the viticultural region showcasing Red Willow, DuBrul, Klipsun and Upchurch. Blending fruit from these celebrated vineyards adds complexity; yet the charm and purity of the region’s Merlot remains the central focus of this wine. This wine has received 90 points from Jeb Dunnuck. “A beautiful Merlot, it offers classic notes of black cherries, dark chocolate and roasted herbs in a supple, full-bodied, sexy, rounded style.” – Jeb Dunnuck.
Brian Carter Cellars ONE Merlot
Brian Carter Cellars 2013 ONE Merlot: A single varietal single vineyard release. Brian Carter has made a lot of nice merlot over the years but either they did not reach the quality to stand on their own or Brian needed them for one of his bends (always the priority). In 2013 Brian had a lot of good Merlot for his blends, so he was able to keep this lot, clearly the best from the vintage, for bottling on its own in the ONE program. This wine from Olsen Vineyard is an outstanding example of what this variety can do in Washington State. Having tasted Merlots from all over the world, Brian has maintained that Washington has the best expression of Merlot fruit from anywhere. This wine is dark garnet in color. The intense and complex aromas include black cherry, blackberry, raspberry and pomegranate with hints of earth and toasted oak. The palate is round with just the right hints of tannin for aging and a balanced lengthy finish.
J Bookwalter Merlot
J Bookwalter 2015 Readers Merlot: An outstanding Merlot from Washington’s revered old vineyards Conner Lee and Dionysus. Their Readers blend tips its hat to all exploratory readers of books and wine. Blending Conner Lee Vineyard’s 1992 old block Merlot and Dionysus Vineyards’ block 15 Merlot combines two super character vineyards. Elephant Mountain Vineyard’s Cabernet bring spice and complexity to the blend. This powerful wine offers fragrant cherries and chocolate with rich marrionberry flavors in this delicious easy drinking style. The 2015 Readers Merlot just received the following scores: 90-Wine Enthusiast 88-Jeb Dunnuck 95-James Suckling. The 2015 Vintage of Readers Merlot shows slightly more acid and structure than your “quintessential” Washington Merlot making it perfect for pizza, pasta, grilled or braised meats.
Mathew’s Winery Merlot: In celebration of Merlot season and the exciting release of their 2015 Merlot, they are offering a 3-year Merlot vertical (2013, 2014, 2015).
“The 2015 Merlot is a blend of 78% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon that was brought up in 69% new French oak. Crème de cassis, violets, a touch of vanilla bean, and incense all give way to a rich, voluptuous, beautifully textured, ripe Merlot that has sweet tannin and a silky, elegant texture. It’s ready to go, yet should keep for at least a decade.”
– 93 POINTS, JEB DUNNUCK
“Plum and cherry aromas are lifted by a note of wild herbs. Compellingly plush and generous in the mouth, offering a distinctly layered texture to its flavors of black raspberry, cigar box, milk chocolate and herbs. Already extremely appealing but I wouldn’t describe it as soft. The long, palate-staining finish builds inexorably. A knockout chocolatey Merlot with outstanding breadth and finesse.”
-93 POINTS, STEPHEN TANZER
“Like with the Cabernet, the 2013 Merlot was reviewed last year under the Tenor 2:2 label. Incorporating 24% Cabernet Franc, it has a complex bouquet of plum pit, blood orange, leafy herbs and mint to go with a charming, ripe, supple style on the palate. I love its silky, elegant texture, and while good now, it should benefit from a few years in bottle.”
[photo cred: Duval Images, DeLille Cellars, Brian Carter Cellars, J Bookwalter, Matthews Winery]
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