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Senior Tim Fish joined the Wine Spectator staff in 2001. His tasting beat includes Oregon, Washington, California Zinfandel and Rhône-style reds, and U.S. sparkling wines.
Tim Fish

A Smart-Money Sonoma Merlot for Labor Day

Roth Merlot Alexander Valley 2008

Tim Fish
Posted: August 31, 2010

Late summer has a sort of swift momentum that always leaves me unprepared for Labor Day. For the Fourth of July and Memorial Day, I’m mulling over the menu a week or two in advance, but after the long, hot chaos of summer, I lack the gumption to give Labor Day much thought.

And yet the heady aroma of red meat or pork sizzling on the grill is one of my favorite addictions, so I know the wine I’m drinking will be red. Like the menu, I doubt I’ll fuss over the wine either. I want something that’s easy to drink, a no-brainer. Recently I tasted what seems to be a likely candidate: Roth Merlot Alexander Valley 2008 ($20).

Roth is the value-oriented second label for Lancaster Estate. The grapes come from the estate’s vineyards in the eastern hills of southern Alexander Valley, and like many of the best Merlots from this part of Sonoma County, the wine has good structure and soft tannins. The 2008 is supple, rich and packed with black cherry fruit, plus toasty vanilla and brown spices. I rated it 88 points, non-blind.

WineSpectator.com members: Get scores and tasting notes for more recently reviewed Merlots for $25 or less from around the world, plus our quick list of Top Value California Merlots.

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