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It's time to give Merlot its due. The grape is reemerging on California's wine scene, where it can make exceptional red wines—witness Duckhorn's Merlot Napa Valley Three Palms Vineyard 2014, which was Wine Spectator's Wine of the Year in 2017. The recent rise in quality comes in part because vintners have focused on regions and sites where the grape excels.
Today's selection casts a wide net, with enticing options stretching from Napa and Sonoma to the Central Coast. More than half of these wines cost less than $25, so you won't have to break the bank to explore the different styles and regions on offer.
Topping the list is San Simeon's rich and spicy bottling from the Quarry Heights Vineyard in Paso Robles. Farther north in Sonoma, Merlot makes its case in the Alexander and Dry Creek valleys with versions from Matanzas Creek and Frei Brothers, which are structured and loaded with the grape's classic red fruit and herbal flavors. And Markham represents Napa Valley with its kitchen-sink blend that shows off Merlot's velvety texture.
SAN SIMEON Merlot Paso Robles Estate Reserve 2014 Score: 90 | $22
A big, rich and spicy red, with lots of loamy accents to the ripe plum and dark cherry flavors. The creamy finish lingers with chocolaty notes. Drink now through 2020. 750 cases made.—Kim Marcus
HAPPY CANYON VINEYARDS Piocho Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara 2014 Score: 89 | $32
Fresh and well-sculpted flavors of red plum and raspberry tart are buoyantly juicy and spicy in this red. Hints of red peach show on the juicy finish. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Drink now through 2020. 1,046 cases made.—K.M.
MATANZAS CREEK Merlot Alexander Valley 2015 Score: 89 | $28
Concentrated cherry and red plum flavors define this pure and minerally version. Savory herb and spice details show on the finish, with firm tannins. Drink now through 2021. 2,000 cases made.—K.M.
FREI BROTHERS Merlot Dry Creek Valley Sonoma Reserve 2016 Score: 88 | $20
Lots of brambly notes and dried cherry flavors in this open-textured style. Flinty accents emerge on the structured finish. Drink now. 16,500 cases made.—K.M.
MADDALENA Merlot Paso Robles 2014 Score: 88 | $18
Lots of fresh-crushed berry and red plum flavors in this minerally style. The zesty finish has some peppery notes. Drink now. 2,000 cases made.—K.M.
MARKHAM Cellar 1879 Blend Napa Valley 2015 Score: 88 | $27
Offers a velvety texture to the ripe cherry, nectarine and red currant flavors. Hints of dried tarragon and red licorice show on the finish. Merlot, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. Drink now. 13,000 cases made.—K.M.
NAPA CELLARS Merlot Napa Valley 2016 Score: 88 | $25
Offers undercurrents of cocoa powder and hints of paprika to the lively red fruit and spice flavors. Medium-grain tannins turn silky on the finish. Drink now. 8,000 cases made.—K.M.
ELIZABETH ROSE Chockablock Napa Valley 2016 Score: 87 | $20
Features plenty of graphite accents to the dried red fruit and berry flavors. Coffee bean and mocha notes emerge on the finish. Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Drink now. 2,500 cases made.—K.M.
FOLIE DEUX Merlot Alexander Valley 2016 Score: 87 | $20
Red currant, dried green herb and graphite flavors are supported by muscular tannins in this focused red, with a chewy finish. Drink now. 7,150 cases made.—K.M.
PEDRONCELLI Merlot Dry Creek Valley Bench Vineyards 2016 Score: 87 | $18
Cedar, spice, and dried red fruit flavors linger with sanguine accents in this red, featuring a minerally finish that's fresh and focused. Drink now. 2,500 cases made.—K.M.
Source : https://www.winespectator.com/webfeature/show/id/10-Commendable-California-Merlot-Wines-56940