Hello, Merlot!

red wine being poured into 4 glasses

Merlot has always been a people pleaser, particularly with wine drinkers seeking a delicious, silky red wine that’s complex but uncomplicated.

Unlike powerful and more tannic cabernet sauvignon, soft and silky merlot may be the only wine grape defined more by its texture than its flavors. Merlot’s origins trace to France, where it most famously grows on the Bordeaux’s Right Bank, valued as a blending component due to its quick ripening and velvety texture. In the US, merlot is second only to cabernet as the most widely planted red grape, grown from the cool wine regions in Washington State to California’s warm Central Valley, and even in New York and Vermont.

With more options now than ever, there’s never been a better time to sip a glass of merlot. Depending on its source, flavors range from dark cherry to ripe plum with undertones of anise, tobacco, vanilla, coconut, and baking spice. However, from California to Washington and beyond, the wines boast a supple, plush palate that’s all merlot.

Did you know: Some attribute the merlot grape’s name to French for “little blackbird” (merle is the French for blackbird) due to the black color of the grapes—or the fact that merlot’s fast ripening attracts the hungry birds.

1. Bogle Merlot, California

bogle merlot wine bottle From a family winery often awarded a top value brand, Bogle Merlot packs a punch. From first glance at its dark purple color to ripe black cherry and plum aromas, the wine finishes with an ultra-silky palate. Aged 12 months in American oak, the wine shows flavor notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, and mocha through the soft finish. Pair with a margherita pizza or aged white cheddar cheese.
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2. Josh Cellars Merlot, California

Josh Cellars Merlot wine bottle The Josh Cellars Merlot grapes are grown in two distinct California regions —Sonoma County and Mendocino County—the latter of which leads to particularly vibrant acidity due to its cool growing season. What results is a complex wine. It features ample violet aromatics with blackberry, sweet plum, and vanilla bean flavor notes, driving through a smooth, cocoa powder-textured finish. Pair with tomato-based Italian food, ripe fresh berries, or a rich dessert.
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3. Chateau Ste. Michelle Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington

Chateau Ste. Michelle Merlot bottle Due to its location at a higher latitude than California, Washington’s Columbia Valley region experiences long summer days and ample sunlight that lead to a distinct earthy character in its wines. The Chateau Ste. Michelle Merlot shows rich black cherry notes atop the leather and spice notes. A small amount of syrah adds a hint of jammy fruit flavor. Pair with beef, hearty pastas, or even grilled salmon. Pairing with recipes that feature basil, oregano, nutmeg, or star anise spices will particularly complement the wine.
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4. Sterling Vintner’s Collection Merlot, Central Coast, California

Sterling Vintner’s Collection Merlot wine bottle The Sterling Vintner’s Collection Merlot boasts vivid aromas of mixed berry jam, red cherry, milk chocolate, and baking spice. Generous flavor notes of blackberry bramble and mocha harmonize with silky tannins, making the wine thrive with dark chocolate, penne à la vodka, or a classic cheeseburger.
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5. Charles Smith Velvet Devil Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington

Decoy Cab Sauvignon wine bottle The name and eye-catching label create quite the first impression for this wine, a fun, velvet-textured blend. Perfectly ripened merlot fruit is blended with 3% cabernet sauvignon, 2% malbec, and 1% cabernet franc to add layers of flavor. Cherry and blackberry flavor notes intermingle with cedar, pipe tobacco, and earth, finishing with a burst of devilish spice. Pair with roasted pork or grilled steak, especially accentuated with a cherry chutney.
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