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Wine Finds: Versatile merlot from California, Washington State

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If you haven’t had a good merlot wine in a while, now is an excellent time to buy a bottle. Merlot wines tend to be versatile reds that can be paired with a variety of foods, including red, white and plant-based meats, making them good choices for dinner parties. These wines are also often less tannic, fruitier and easier to drink than cabernet sauvignon. But that doesn’t mean reds made from merlot are meek and boring. In fact, they can be quite robust like the following two from California and Washington State. Both are medium- to full-bodied with a relatively high level of alcohol at 14.5%.

Broadside 2018 Merlot Margarita Vineyard, Paso Robles, California

Bought • Dierbergs, 7233 Watson Road, in July for $11.99

Description • This lush, fruity merlot, which received scores in the 90s from several critics, is made under the Broadside label that’s part of the Wine Hooligans portfolio. It’s a blend of 78% merlot and 22% cabernet sauvignon that’s been aged 11 months in neutral French oak. The result is a rich red that tastes of concentrated ripe black cherries and plums with hints of smoke, mint and herbs. This wine has soft tannins, a mouthwatering acidity, and a long, silky finish.

H3 2018 Merlot, Horse Heaven Hills, California

Bought • Dierbergs, 7233 Watson Road, in July for $13.99.

Description • If you like a drier style of merlot, give this well-received H3 red a try. Although it’s also a blend dominated by merlot with a smaller amount of cabernet sauvignon, it’s less fruity than the Broadside and has firmer tannins. Most of this wine was aged for 20 months in a combination of new and older French and American oak barrels resulting in a more complex and spicier red. It also tastes of black cherries and plums but has notes of vanilla, earth and cocoa.

Follow Gail on Twitter @GailAppleson.

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