Wine Tasting Dinner: Washington Merlot



By Kori ~ April 13th, 2009.

Wine Tasting Dinner crew at the tableOn Friday evening, we hosted our 70th wine tasting dinner. Once again we had a fabulous evening of good wines, the company of wonderful friends, and Mom’s excellent food.

This month’s dinner featured Washington Merlot. Don’t be misled by what one idiot said in a Hollywood movie, Merlot is a wonderful varietal. And Washington State makes outstanding Merlot. Washington Merlot is known for its sweet cherry flavors and complex aromas and is generally higher in acidity than California Merlot.

“Merlot actually shows some muscle and flavor in Washington, two things sadly lacking in merlots from most other places.” –Paul Gregutt, Washington Wines & Wineries

2005 Fielding Hills MerlotWhile all six wines were good, the top four were excellent and paired well with Mom’s dinner of tomato basil soup, mixed green salad, beef tenderloin served with a sour cream sauce, sautéed green beans with red onions and roasted peppers, chipotle lime mashed sweet potatoes, and a scrumptious chocolate cake topped with raspberries and whipped cream.

The 2005 Fielding Hills Merlot was hands down the best wine in this tasting from the first sip right on through dessert. It received first place votes from 7 out of 8 people. Mike Wade, owner/winemaker of Fielding Hills, continues to produce amazing wines across varietals. You may remember that we were “wow-ed” by his 2005 Syrah last summer and were also taken with his 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon at Taste Washington.

From 1st to last in the group consensus rankings:

2005 Fielding Hills Merlot (Wahluke Slope, Washington): My favorite from the first sip right on through dessert. Very distinctive bouquet with aromas of burnt toast, caramel, and crème brulee. Medium to full-bodied with medium tannins. Red fruits, especially plums, come through on the palate. Well-balanced and smooth with a long finish. Just a beautiful wine.
Quality: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $36; The Cellar on 10th (Oregon), $43

2005 Dunham Lewis Vineyard Merlot (Columbia Valley, Washington): Deep red with buttered popcorn aromas and sweet cherry flavors. Big and full-bodied with dry tannins and a long finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 3 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Pete’s Wine Shop – Eastside (Washington), $60.69; Available elsewhere, $60 to $77

2005 Columbia Crest Reserve Merlot (Columbia Valley, Washington): Ruby red with sweet, ripe aromas. Medium-bodied and crisp with soft tannins. Flavorful with sweet red fruits and cake frosting coming through on the palate. Smooth with a long finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $22; Available elsewhere, $20 to $30

2003 Leonetti Merlot (Columbia Valley, Washington): Deep red but slightly hazy. Nose a bit closed at first. Aromas and flavors of red fruits and vanilla. Medium to full-bodied with medium tannins. Long but slightly bitter finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 2 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: J.J. Buckley Fine Wines (California), $69.99; Available elsewhere, $70 to $90

2006 Stephenson Cellars Merlot (Washington State): Very aromatic but aromas changed throughout the meal, starting out with vanilla and cherry and then turning perfumy with citrus notes. Bright red fruits, chocolate, and a vegetal component come through on the palate. Medium to full-bodied with drying tannins. Very acidic with a long finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $28

2006 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot (Columbia Valley, Washington): Aromas of soap and root beer barrels candy. Cherry cola flavors. Medium to full-bodied with soft tannins. Long but bitter finish. A bit boring.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Fred Meyer, $9; Available elsewhere, $8 to $16


Filed under: American Wine, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Merlot, Red Wine, Washington State Wine, Wine Tasting Dinners, Wines Over $25, Wines Under $10, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

Reader's Comments

  1. peggy kan | September 24th, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    We love columbia crest

  2. Kori | September 24th, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    Peggy,
    Thanks for commenting. I continue to be amazed at the quality wines that Columbia Crest produces at such great prices and in such high quantities. I hope you’ve had a chance to check out some of our other posts about Columbia Crest as well. Cheers!

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