World Market, $8.89 (sale)/14.99 (regular)
Total Wine & More, $12.29
Santa Ema Website
Aaron: This gets better after being open for a day but at first sip this was definitely a disappointment for me. The nose was extremely earthy with mostly mushrooms, dirt, and figs. The flavor was equally dirty with mud and forestry. There was a noticeable lack of berries and fruit. The best quality was the fullness, which I appreciated, but not juicy enough for me. 86 points
Teri: Aaron was the only one who tried this bottle. From his notes, I don’t think I missed much.
Purchased from Northwest Cellars Tasting Room, $16
Post about Northwest Cellars Yakima Valley Merlot on Great Northwest Wine
Aaron: This was a pretty solid bottle; big spoiler alert, the flavor and finish feature watermelon (first for me). Oaky musk and moss on the nose with damp bark and subtle fruits on the palate. This wasn’t in-your-face fruity but the berries are there too. Overall, easy drinking and a little tar on the aftertaste. 89 points
Teri: Merlot was never my go-to varietal until I started to taste Washington Merlots. This Yakima grown merlot carries smells of blackberry and white pepper on the nose with flavors of mixed berry and more pepper on the body. I enjoyed the long mouthfeel and the flavor. It’s not too complex overall but juicy and easy to drink. 88 points
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.