Suggested Retail: $15
“Merlot may be a grape native to Bordeaux, but the state of Washington does very well with this variety. Accepted wisdom is that Merlot is similar to its French-born cousin, Cabernet Sauvignon, but a less powerful wine—more approachable in current winespeak. This borders on oversimplification, but is more true than not.
“Chateau Ste. Michelle produces three separate bottlings of Merlot. This week’s Pick, is their 2017 Columbia Valley Merlot, which delivers a lot of varietal character for the price ($15 at suggested retail). Predominantly Merlot (80%), the blend contains small amounts of other grapes to include Mouvédre (2%), Cabernet Sauvignon (1%), Petit Verdot (1%), Malbec (1%), Grenache (1%) and Pinot Noir (1%). These small amounts of other varieties no doubt contribute to the taste of the finished product, but not as much as the 13% Syrah, which gives the final blend some added richness and power. You’ll find aspects of dark cherries, blackberries and a bit of smokiness in the finish of this Merlot.
“The winery also produces three other Merlot products, all from grapes grown within the boundaries of the Columbia Valley appellation. Their Indian Wells Merlot is $20 retail, Canoe Ridge $36 and the Ethos Reserve is $55. All of these deliver more complexity than our $15 Wine Pick and, depending on your budget, you may want to consider ratcheting up to try them if you like Ch Ste Michelle’s basic Merlot.”
Food Affinity: “At $15 retail (and sometimes found a buck or two less than that), this week’s choice is a good everyday Merlot that you can pour with any dishes you think will be complemented by a red wine. We’d suggest you splash some of it on sautéed shallots and mushrooms and serve alongside sliced Tri-Tip, grilled to medium-rare.”