Purchased from Van Camp Cellars, $25
Aaron: Love it! The nose smells exactly like a wild berry bush with dark timber. The flavor features luscious vanilla and soaked oak. This tastes like an old moss-covered castle and is absolutely wonderful. 93 points
Teri: Fruity nose and flavors of sweet raspberry with slight white pepper on the finish. A small hint of bitterness but very fruity with full tannins on the back of the mouth. Juicy. 89 points
Lot 18/The Tasting Room, $16/bottle
Aaron: This was a good middle-of-the-road bottle for me but nothing to go bonkers for. The smoked burgundy and blackberry smell also featured a hint of jasmine. I enjoyed the medium-full body with a little bitter strawberry, rose petals, and cherry rounding out the palate. 89 points.
Teri: This merlot has flavors of mellow juniper berry with a leafy finish. Mild bitter oak melts away to smooth tannins on the finish and a velvety mouth feel. Easy to drink and not too complex. Overall, very approachable. 88 points
Desert Winds Website
Purchased from Desert Winds Tasting Room, $35
Aaron: I give major props to Desert Winds for having a “charity donation fee” to taste this older bottle in their tasting room – admittedly, that’s probably why we bought it. There was a lot of berry and tobacco on the nose with a dark flavor. This had gotten a little flat after 16 years (it’s a merlot, not a cab or zin) and tasted almost like a port with lots of plum and prune notes. I enjoyed the abundant chocolate with some dry tree bark. Overall this was mellow and easy drinking, particularly after it opened up. 90 points
Teri: Aaron and I bought this bottle from the winery after doing a charity donation tasting (tasting fee goes to charity and you get to try a reserve wine..awesome set up). After 16 years in the bottle, this wine still contained some structured tannins but left you with an extremely smooth mouth feel. Along with a juicy berry nose, the flavors of peppery black cherry and sweet oak made this one bottle to enjoy on its own. 90 points. Any merlot Desert Winds crafts will be good for aging–buy a few and let them sit for 5-10 years.
Lot 18, $14.99
Aaron: I absolutely love this bottle for so many reasons. It’s a great value, it’s easy to drink but not “juice” and in my opinion the perfect party wine. There was SO MUCH FRUIT, coupled with mild vanilla and dark bark. The nose featured the same characters with an added hint of smoke but the points are all in the flavor. There is a luscious near-sweetness which makes this easy to drink but it’s not a kiddy wine. This is a superstar middle-of-the-road wine and my new go-to for casual parties. 92 points
Teri: If you are looking for a versatile, all around good wine, this is it. With its easy to drink flavors and tannins, this French Merlot is perfect for dinner parties or as a festive gift for a friend. I loved the spicy strawberry and rhubarb smell and the mild, but flavorful, fruity taste of blueberry, strawberry and clove. Not too much oak on the flavor, but just a hint on the finish. Any level wine drinker would be happy with this bottle. 93 points
Sent in our first large Tasting Room Shipment, about $19 bottle
Aaron: Some mild woodsiness with rocky ocean shores made for an interesting smell. The flavor was pretty full but a bit too much cranberry made me pucker. Fortunately some nice vanilla leads to a smooth finish. 89 points
Teri: The nose (smell) is full of oak and earthy dark berries, but don’t let that stop you if you don’t normally like those characteristics in your wine. The flavor is smooth (amazingly smooth) with an easy to drink medium body feel. The tastes of spice are notable but balanced with flavors of strawberry and rich cherry. This wine is very easy to drink and yet still has bold characteristics for those who yearn for something “big” in their glass. 93 points