California Merlot is stylistically all over the map, one reason consumers have a love-hate relationship with the wine. Merlot fashions range from rich and ripe Napa Cabernet knockoffs, to easygoing fruit bombs, to firm and tightly structured French wannabes. It’s a challenge to find a winery that balances the best of California Merlot, but Whitehall Lane pulls it off year after year.
The 2007 Merlot is a fine example. Silky and complex, it’s layered with black cherry and toasty mocha notes. You can sip it alone, but its deft balance of tannins and acidity makes it great for a steak. Whitehall Lane harvested from around the valley for the 2007, which was a great vintage for Napa reds. Winemaker Dean Sylvester blended in 10 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 9 percent Syrah to add backbone and complexity. I rated it 91 when I retasted it non-blind recently, and the $28 price is very reasonable for that level of quality.
WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind tasting review for Whitehall Lane Merlot Napa Valley 2007 (90, $28).
• Plus, get our quick list of Top Values among California Merlots.