I’m no Miles from Sideways, spurning Merlot with vitriolic and illogical distaste. But it seems I’ve accidentally been avoiding it. Looking back at the wines I’ve written about and my other personal tasting notes, I was surprised to find that I don’t seem to have purchased more than one or two bottles over the past year. Like a comfortable sweater worn too many times, Merlot has been stashed in the back of my mental closet of wines, occasionally pulled out for a look and then stuffed back as unexciting or unflattering for a particular occasion or meal. Nonetheless, one turned out to be the highlight of the Washington wines tasting I helped my dad organize for a holiday party.
My dad found the Waterbrook Merlot Columbia Valley Reserve 2007 on sale at his local retailer, even though the wine had made Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2010 (at No. 46), so he snapped up quite a few bottles for his party. Waterbrook, based in Washington’s Walla Walla appellation, is a reliable source of values, and the wine still would have been a steal at its suggested $22 retail price.
The party was the first time I tried this wine—a 100 percent Merlot, sourced from seven vineyards and aged in oak barrels (32 percent new) for 22 months. While it offered the grape’s expected plush texture and ripe black cherries, plums and berries, with touches of chocolate and spice, what struck me most was its balance. It carried its rich, fresh fruit on an agile frame, not a sharp angle of acidity, alcohol or tannins jutting out for a moment through the long finish. 91 points, non-blind, for me. As for the partygoers, their actions spoke for themselves: Their glasses emptied quickly, and most went back for more.
WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Waterbrook Merlot Columbia Valley Reserve 2007 (92, $22).
• Plus, get scores and tasting notes for recently rated Top Values among reds from Washington.