Among these Merlots it’s no surprise that the Duckhorn was the star of the tasting, they have a long history excelling with merlot. The surprise of the tasting was the lovely little wine from New York State’s Fox Run. A small scaled and austere wine, it nonetheless was balanced and fresh with bright red fruit. Atypical for Merlot, but simply too fun and zesty to ignore. The Alexander valley Vineyards was another great wine and one that offers real value at its price point.

2006 Duckhorn Merlot

Black cherry, vanilla, tobacco leaf, herbs, earth, and a touch of French oak are all nicely balanced.  This is seamless on entry with excellent purity of black cherry fruit. The acidity creeps up on you a little but the fruit is very precise and fresh with lovely suggestions of herb and tomato with fine shadings of cigarbox and cedar.  This is refined and elegant with excellent length in a surprisingly fresh and juicy style that really highlights the red fruits. 93pts

2005 Matanzas Creek Bennett Valley Merlot

Herbal and decidedly earthy on the nose with espresso foam, toasted caraway, dill and a hint of toasted coconut over the base of black cherry fruit.  This is certainly well structured in the mouth with fairly prominent and slight dry tannins that keep this leaner styled wine focused across the palate. The flavors are complex and the inner mouth perfume quite assertive with spice, herb and vanilla tinged red berry fruit tone. The fruit really pops on the backend and into the finish though this is and I expect will always remain an austere style of Merlot. This has excellent length but this is far from your typical California Merlot. 91pts

2006 Alexander Valley Vineyards Wetzel Family Vineyard Merlot

Tobacco, earth, smoke, dried flowers and plum on the nose.  Really fresh on entry with soft tannins and bright acidity supporting lightly smoky, cedar edged red plum and pomegranate fruits with note of shaved bittersweet chocolate, coffee and candied raspberries adding nice top notes. The tannins turn a touch drying and aggressive with time, though they can easily be tamed with some time in bottle or decanter. The finish is long and caressing with a layered feel and lovely, fresh fruit tones. This has compelling freshness and a lightness across the palate that makes it very appealing.  90pts

2006 Ethos Merlot from Ch. Ste. Michelle

Deep tobacco, coffee, date, dried cherry, mint and perfumed French oak tones. This is rich and super polished with fresh acidity and substantial, but integrated tannins giving this a plush feel. The fruits are on the darker end of the spectrum with noticeable oak influenced flavors of chocolate, baking spices and cedar, but this still retains good balance.  The finish shows more freshness with spiced plum notes but it’s also suffering compression from the load of wood tannin. A big, suave wine that may hold broad appeal but for me this is just a bit too polished and too oaked. 90pts

2006 Chateau Ste. Michelle Cold Creek Vineyard Merlot

This is all dark cocoa, coffee, prune and plum fruit on the nose with a backing of sweet oaky spice, and surprising freshness, considering the aromas.  Full, rich and smooth on the palate with nice heft, and lusciously ripe fruit that is well supported by ripe tannins and integrated acidity. The flavors are much like the aromas, a bit on the darker end of the spectrum with the spice tones from the oak being a bit more prominent.  The finish shows more of the dark fruit note with cigarbox, milk chocolate, and tobacco notes and a suggestion of sweetness.  If the flavors sound appealing this is a nice wine for you. 89pts

2005 Rutherford Hill Napa Valley Merlot

Well-balanced aromas of freshly sawn wood, vanilla, crushed berries and juniper give this a woodsy nose.  This has the rich attack and ultra smooth feel that many people look for in Merlot. The wood is well integrated on the palate adding only chocolate and mocha notes to the rich black plum fruit. There’s a bit of spice on the back end and into the finish, which is on the shorter side. Fruity and easy drinking 88pts