Columbia Crest 2011 Grand Estates Merlot, Columbia Valley, $12
Best Buy! The Grand Estates brand got a refresh earlier this year, but the wines continue to offer the same level of quality at everyday prices. The Merlot received an oak regimen of 14 months in 1/3 new barrel, which begins to explain the aromas of cocoa powder and caramel corn running in step with black currant, plum, boysenberry and pipe tobacco. There’s lots of toasted oak on the palate with milk chocolate and coffee as gatekeepers to fruity notes of cherry and plums. Approachable tannins and juicy acidity collaborate for pleasing length. Suggested fare includes filet mignon with blue cheese, duck or veal chop.
Production: 99,000 cases