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1. Fielding Hills Estate Riverbend Vineyard Merlot Wahluke Slope 2013 $36

Merlot can be a much maligned variety, but when it’s good, it’s good. This wine is even better. I poured it for some friends alongside 50-plus other heavy-hitting wines, and everyone in the room agreed that it was the best wine on the table. Yes, it’s that good.

2. Northstar Winery Premier Merlot Columbia Valley 2012 $85

Northstar’s top-end merlot is crafted with long-term aging in mind. That doesn’t mean that the wine isn’t approachable now, with its heady aromas and flavors of cocoa, cherry, and raspberry delivering both intensity and length.

3. Leonetti Cellar Merlot Walla Walla Valley 2014 $75

After 38 years, Leonetti is still putting out some of the state’s most impressive wines. This bottle just might be the variety’s platonic ideal, ripe with flavors of raspberry, cherry, and cocoa that go on long after the last sip. 

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