Gnarly Head Merlot

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Gnarly Head Website

BevMo, $9.49

Total Wine & More, $7.49

Wine Enthusiast Rating


Aaron:  I agree with Teri, Gnarly head is one of my top choices for super-affordable bottles.  This has light blackberries and oak on the nose with some mild peanut butter.  The flavor is juicy (as with most Gnarly Head bottles) featuring vanilla and passion fruit.  Strawberry preserves and a hint of allspice with basil round out on the finish.  91 points

Teri: Garnly head is always a solid choice and this bottle is no different. Flavors of vanilla, blueberry, baking powder, and oak make for an easy drinking but still full-bodied red wine. The tannins are noticeable but very smooth. This is your “night-in” bottle for any day of the week.  Easy to find and well worth the purchase. 90 points 

Van Camp Merlot 2015

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Purchased from Van Camp Cellars, $25


Aaron: I always love Jim’s Merlots.  This is another solid showing with black pepper and gooseberry on the nose.  Some tobacco complements rosebuds on the flavor and while this is a bit more mineral than normal, there are definite notes of raspberry and blackberry.  90 points

Teri: It’s not a secret we love Jim’s wines (perhaps why we quickly joined the wine club of this tiny PNW gem). His 2015 Merlot is hearty but incredibly smooth. It fills your mouth with an even blend of juicy plum, sweet oak, and spice and a fruit forward nose to match. 91 points 

Two Mountain Merlot 2012

IMG_1220.jpgTwo Mountain Winery

BevMo, $18.99

Total Wine & More, $15.99


Aaron: This was a great bottle, fruity nose with some mild greens.  I describe this as very middle of the road and moderate.  While that’s not going to wine awards for wine of the year, it makes it very flexible and easy to pair with lots of meals.  There were young, fruity berries and some fresh tobacco leaves (not dried) on the flavor with goji berries on the finish.  91 points

Teri: A plastic/industrial smell, similar to barley didn’t give me high hopes for what I was going to taste. It surprised me slightly with a blend of herbs up front and then fruit (plum and blueberry) on the finish, although the barley flavor still continued throughout the wine. Medium bodied and light tannins make this an OK wine for me but nothing to brag about. 86 points 

Santa Ema Merlot

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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.