1. Leonetti Cellar Merlot Walla Walla Valley 2013 - $75
Leonetti helped make a name for itself and for the state with merlot, and this wine is just another example of why. Chocolate, raspberry, and spice aromas are followed by plump, plush fruit along with a finish that lingers.
2. Woodward Canyon Merlot Columbia Valley 2012 - $52
This 100 percent varietal wine comes from equal parts Weinbau and Woodward Canyon Estate vineyards. It shows a pleasing interplay of fruit and barrel, with aromas of chocolate, cherry, and spice followed by full-bodied fruit and tightly wound tannins.
3. Stevens Winery Stevens Merlot Merlot Yakima Valley 2012 - $32
Winemaker Tim Stevens is equally well known for the artwork that adorns his labels as the artistry that’s inside the bottle. This exquisite offering has beautifully balanced acidity, which draws out the raspberry and licorice flavors.
4. Januik Winery Merlot Columbia Valley 2012 - $25
Mike Januik shows his usual masterful touch via fruit from some of the state’s top vineyards, including Weinbau, Klipsun, and Ciel du Cheval. Notes of coffee, raspberry, and dark chocolate are utterly irresistible.
5. Bunchgrass Winery Merlot Walla Walla Valley 2012 - $35
This under-the-radar winery consistently produces some of the state’s finest wines as well as some of its best values. Fruit comes from the esteemed Seven Hills Vineyard, with raspberry, coffee, and spice bringing both texture and polish.