Gregory Dal Piaz

Location: New York, NY

Top 7 Merlot From $15-$20

Rank Wine Rating Price
1 Waterstone Merlot Napa Valley (2008)
Comments: The nose shows some subtle dried bay leaf undertones and hints of lightly nutty oak framing rather fresh plum fruit. Restrained yet balanced. This enters the mouth with freshness and some precision, which unfolds with fine red plum and berry fruit over a light wash of oak spice and earthy elements. The acidity is juicy and the tannins crisp, adding to the balanced, transparent mouthfeel. The finish shows a little nervy edge and fine persistence to the cranberry-rhubarb flavors that continue to cover the oak right through the slightly nutty and cocoa-dusted finale. 91pts
Previously available for $18.99
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2 Charles Krug Winery Peter Mondavi Family Merlot Napa Valley (2009)
Comments: Lots of sweet cocoa and carob greet the nose along with a crisp arugula edge to the dark, slightly dried plum and boysenberry fruit. Has some vanilla, cinnamon and tobacco top notes. This has lovely focus as it enters the mouth, with youthfully dry tannins adding cut to the palate. The fruit is bright and fairly complex while not being sweet, with attractive vanilla, tobacco, cedar and dried spice accent notes. Some tea and Mexican chocolate notes emerge on the moderately long finish, which does show a whisper of heat but is nicely balanced in a fairly classical style. This has a lot going for it. 90pts
Average price: $21.94 from 3 stores
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3 Rutherford Ranch Merlot (2008)
Comments: A bit flat and nutty on the nose with herbal, dried grass base notes that add an attractive dimension to the earthy persimmon and red fruit aromas. This is really well balanced in a fresh style that highlights the supple tannins of Merlot. Excellent, juicy acidity keeps this fresh and lively in the mouth. There's a touch of under-ripeness here that shows up as a base of herbal, earthy flavors, but that just adds complexity to the core of blackberry fruit. There’s a nice touch of oak adding supporting spice notes and an overlay of vanilla. This leads to a moderately long, slightly peppery and savory finish that ends on a candied cranberry note. Pretty solid and an easy to drink offering. 89pts
Average price: $22.99 from 4 stores
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4 Mcconnell Estates Winery Merlot Wackman Ranch (2008)
Comments: Sweet blueberry fruit greets the nose along with underlying oak notes, smoke and hints of caraway and barbecue sauce. This is really lovely in the mouth. Bright and a little punchy with good acidity and moderate, soft tannins supporting the rather bold fruit. There's a lot of blueberry here, along with some plum and cherry fruit, all wrapped around hints of wood spice accented by a little leather and hickory spice. The finish is fresh, if clipped a bit by the tannins, but this holds its alcohol well and shows off some attractive if not terribly varietal flavors. 89pts
Previously available for $16.50
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5 Charles Krug Winery Peter Mondavi Family Merlot Napa Valley (2008)
Comments: Chocolate, vanilla and shaved cedar greet the nose along with some red berry fruit and a hint of camphor. Broad in the mouth and fairly fresh, with a nice layered entry that shows off an earthy undertone, hints of leather and wood spice, and an accent of vanilla over a base of dark red berry fruit. There's even a touch of strawberry on the back end, though the wood treatment becomes more dominant in the mouth. The tannins certainly take the upper hand on the finish, where this is fairly obviously oaky and a bit hot. The fruit does stay there, it’s just under the wood the whole time. 88pts
Previously available for $26.99
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6 Mcconnell Estates Winery Merlot Wackman Ranch (2007)
Comments: Hints of ginseng and carob accent the candied cherry and blackcurrant aromas that gain a dusting of cocoa and cedar with air. This is broad and low in the mouth on entry, with plenty of toasty, spicy accents to the slow-to-emerge dark fruit. Hints of green anise seed, mint and toasted coriander rise on the mid-palate, along with hints of pomegranate seeds, vanilla and candied wild blackberries. These build in intensity in the mouth, gaining a slightly grapey medicinal tone on the back end before disappearing into a rather firm and assertive finish that's driven by oak and earthy dried fruit flavors. A bit tight and probably cellar worthy, though this will never be a particularly fruity wine. It is attractively firm and assertive. I would like to see how this pairs with a nice roast beef or venison loin. 88pts
Previously available for $16.50
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7 Decoy Cabernet Sauvignon (2010)
Comments: Loamy earth and dill greet the nose followed by spiced cherry aromas wrapped in fruit cake. Has some burnt fudge, rum and dried date top notes. Enters the mouth with a rather austere quality that adds some firmness to this medium-scaled wine. The flavors are fresh and fairly complex, with notes of dill and cocoa accenting the fruit flavors. Fruit leans towards the dried fruit end of the spectrum with hints of dates and spice cake. The oak really pops on the finish here, with plenty of attractive, toasty spice notes and a little heat marring the finale. 88pts
Average price: $59.27 from 5 stores
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