Waterbrook Winery 2012 Merlot, Columbia Valley, $14
Best Buy! John Freeman took over the winemaking at Walla Walla’s fourth-oldest winery in 2005, so he’s entering his second decade at the helm. Waterbrook has a tradition of producing cellar-worthy Washington Merlot, starting with founding winemaker Eric Rindal, and this product of Precept’s Canyon Vineyard Ranch and Willard Vineyard follows that template. It uses just 20% new American and Hungarian oak — no French — to create aromas of blackberry, black cherry, tar and cocoa powder. On the palate, it carries more of a purple fruit profile with Marionberry, elderberry and blueberry amid a structure of bright acidity and sturdy tannins. Suggested fare includes steaks with portabella mushrooms, rosemary-influenced pork chops and tomato-based pasta dishes.
Production: 2,443 cases