Dinner parties in Sonoma County generally feature great wine, and sometimes a bit of wine one-upmanship. I’m usually torn between taking something rare or turning friends onto a great value. Tasting a collectible is certainly a treat, but it’s a one-time opportunity; a good bargain keeps on giving, because friends often rush out later to buy a few bottles of their own.
My latest value hit was Beringer Merlot Napa Valley 2006, which sells for $20 but is often discounted. Winemaker Laurie Hook achieves impressive complexity by blending grapes from various vineyards in the valley and by adding a touch of Petite Sirah and Cabernet Franc for weight and length. Rich and supple, the Merlot's dusty mocha and focused black cherry fruit made for a good quaff before dinner, and it was also well-suited to the host’s delicate lamb dish. It held up to the 88-point rating I gave it earlier this year in our official blind tastings..
WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Beringer Merlot Napa Valley 2006 (88, $20).