Washington Merlot, straight up

By on December 22, 2013


It’s been nearly a decade since Sideways hit the big screen and changed the public perception of Merlot – and Pinot Noir.

While a single line from that Oscar-nominated movie moved the needle down on Merlot sales a bit, that was primarily in California. Here in Washington, Merlot has only gained strength.

It is still the No. 2 red wine grape – No. 4 grape overall – and Merlot can result in such rich, delicious wine, both by itself and in blends. While Cab is the king of reds, winemakers in Washington do not overlook Merlot by any stretch.

One reason for Merlot’s success in Washington is the climate. In more fertile regions, Merlot is difficult to control because it wants to grow, which causes it to lose focus on the fruit. But in Washington, the soils are poor and growers give the vines barely enough water to survive. As a result, Washington Merlot vines focus all of their energy on the grapes. The result: concentration and richness.

Here are 11 Merlots we’ve tasted in the past several weeks, many of which are in that magical $15-and-under range.

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About Andy Perdue

Andy Perdue is the editor and publisher of Great Northwest Wine. He is a third-generation journalist who has worked at newspapers since the mid-1980s and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest magazine with Eric Degerman and served as its editor-in-chief for 15 years. He is a frequent judge at international wine competitions. He is the author of "The Northwest Wine Guide: A Buyer's Handbook" (Sasquatch, 2003) and has contributed to four other books. He writes about wine for The Seattle Times. You can find him on Twitter and .

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