What: Kiona Merlot Columbia Valley 2012 $25
Why: Merlot has gotten a bad rap over the years. In fact, the grape variety has very much been a victim of its own success. As sales soared, so did the production of cheap, low-quality options, and consumers came to equate merlot with mediocre-quality wine. This is a shame as merlot makes up some of the world’s best wines.
Washington merlot is a different animal than that found elsewhere in the world. In most winegrowing regions, merlot is blended with cabernet sauvignon to soften the latter’s tannins. In Washington, however, many winemakers actually blend in cabernet to soften merlot as the grape brings considerably more heft here.
While Washington makes many high quality offerings of merlot, consumers still take some convincing. Whenever I blind taste out-of-town friends on merlot, they always guess cabernet sauvignon and they always like it—until I tell them that it’s merlot! Then they waffle. Such is the state of merlot today.
A superb example of what makes Washington merlot special is the Kiona Vineyards Merlot Columbia Valley 2012 ($25). While this wine carries the broader Columbia Valley label, the fruit actually comes from old blocks at the winery’s Red Mountain vineyard. It’s understated in style with aromas and flavors of raspberry, clove, and mocha followed by a long finish. It will turn your opinion of the grape sideways (sorry, couldn’t resist). Drink up!