The Best Wines of 2015

Merlot

(97) Pahlmeyer Merlot 2012 (California). A real powerhouse of a wine. Dense, nearly purple color in the glass, with dark fruit dominating the nose and palate. Hints of spice follow from the nose to the taste, with great fruit and density. An exceptional wine; a real keeper. ($70)

(96) Long Shadows Pedestal Merlot 2012 (Washington). A partnership with Michel Rolland, this Washington State wine shows power with elegance. Nearly opaque in the glass, the nose is dominated by black fruit, with hints of spice and smoke. Quite weighty on the palate, the finish is long, and superbly balanced. ($60)

(95) Chateau Chamaille 2011 (France). A classic old-style Bordeaux Rouge with 90% merlot, 8% cabernet sauvignon and 2% cabernet franc. Fragrances of lilac and berry mingle with a hint of “la garrigue.” On the palate, flavors of blueberry, plum and spice harmonize beautifully with sweet/tart acidity. Tannins are supple; the finish is long with a subtle hint of terroir. Very nice now; the wine will benefit from three to five years of cellaring. ($18)

(95) Chateau Dorleac 2012 (France). 97% merlot and 3% cabernet sauvignon. Lush floral aromas with hints of flint and soil lead to ripe flavors of blackberry and currant, all surrounded by the famous gravelly terroir of Graves. Though approachable now, the wine’s firm tannins assure several years of rewarding development. This is a wonderful example of Graves Rouge. ($15)

(95) Chateau Sainte Barbe 2011 (France). 70% Merlot and 15% each cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc, aged 9-12 months in oak. Robust and earthy with bold aromas and flavors of blackberry, currant and vanilla. On the finish, firm tannins show with a good dose of terroir. Pair this with roast beef, lamb or a thick steak. ($17)

(95) Clos Pegase Mitsuko’s Vineyard Merlot 2013 (California). A very dark ruby in the glass, the nose is filled with spiced black and red fruit, with a hint of smokiness. Mouth filling, with lush dark fruit. The finish is long and balanced. ($35)

(95) Shafer Merlot 2011 (California). This wine is a dense purple color, with spice, black cherries and black fruits on the nose. This merlot shines with amazing juicy and chewy flavors of cherry pie and strawberry. With an elegant mouthfeel that presents a lengthy, most enjoyable finish that begs to have another glass. ($60)

(94) Markham Merlot 2012 (California). Dark fruit aroma. Cherry, plum and blackberry flavors. Substantial tannins. Long finish ($23)

(94) Miner Stagecoach Vineyard Merlot 2012 (California). Dark ruby in the glass, the nose is dominated by spicy dark fruit, with just a touch of smoke. The palate is an echo of the nose, with good weight and length. A great combination of power and elegance. ($40)

(94) Neyers Merlot 2011 (California). A deep garnet-red hue, alluring aromas of black cherry, mocha and caramel, lifted by a floral hint. Silky and lush in the mouth, with lovely aromatic perfume to the flavors of cherry, raspberry, flowers, cocoa and dusty spices. A nicely balanced, lovely merlot that finishes with a fine dusting of suave tannins and subtle persistence. This is what merlot should be! ($40)

(93) Chateau Ste. Michelle, Indian Wells Merlot 2012 (Washington). Black fruit with spicy notes dominate the nose of this bright, yet full-bodied wine. Dark ruby in the glass, the palate is elegant, with excellent weight and fruit characteristics. Ready to accompany a wide range of dishes, this is a “go-to” meal wine. ($20)

(93) Chelsea Goldschmidt Merlot 2013 (California). Winemaker Nick Goldschmidt finds that terraced fruit ripens considerably later and brings more complexity and nuance to the finished wine. Stylistically, this is a cabernet drinker’s merlot. Goldschmidt strives for full body and power in the mouth, with wood behind the fruit. The wine has fresh black raspberry, cedar and toasty vanilla aromas, with cherry, black currant and spice flavors. ($19)

(93) Columbia Crest H-3 (Washington). Outstanding wine and value. Rich with ripe red raspberry and dark chocolate. Long intense finish. An elegant mouthfeel full of luscious flavors that keep on evolving. ($15)

(93) Hall Merlot 2012 (California). Deep and rich in color, this wine has aromas of cherry, violets and cocoa, leading to an elegant mid-palate with flavors of dark cherry, blackberries and some toasted oak. This is just a lovely, supple, soft merlot from one of Napa’s best “new” vineyards. ($37)

(93) Markham Vineyards Merlot 2013 (California). Dark ruby in the glass, the nose is dominated by dark berry fruit, with a touch of plum. Hints of spice and chocolate contribute complexity. The wine is lush and full-bodied, with a balanced finish. ($25)

(93) Neyers, Neyers Ranch-Conn Valley 2012 (California). This fabulous merlot is farmed organically and flaunts pure notes of boysenberry, cocoa and dusty minerality with great floral lift. Seamless and long on the palate, a real pleasure to drink. ($31)

(93) St. Francis Reserve Merlot 2012 (California). Black and red fruit explode from the glass, with hints of cocoa and spice. A very dark ruby, the wine has great fruit and weight in the mouth. The finish is extremely long, and balanced to the very end. ($40)

(92) Columbia Winery Merlot 2013 (Washington). Quite a dark ruby color to the eye. Lots of red fruit, with hints of spiciness and toast. Lots and lots of red fruit on the palate, with good weight and breadth. A very food-friendly wine; try it with a wide range of dishes. ($17)

(92) Franciscan Estate Merlot 2012 (California). Dark ruby in the glass, with purple hints. The nose is filled with sweet cherry and red fruit. Plenty of dark fruit in the mouth. Good weight, and a lengthy, well-balanced finish. ($21)

(92) Matanzas Creek Winery Merlot 2012 (California). This Sonoma County merlot is absolutely delicious. Plums, blueberries, black cherries, mocha, bittersweet chocolate and stones emerge from the glass in a deeply expressive, balanced wine loaded with personality. Drink this plump, juicy merlot over the next handful of years. ($25)

(92) Osso Anna Merlot 2012 (California). Complex with a lot of structure, and as it begins to break down, the luscious fruit starts to release. Layers of flavor that keep offering different hints of light cherry, berry fruit and even a hint of plum. This is a merlot lover’s dream. ($23)

(92) Peju Province Merlot 2012 (California). Dense ruby to the edge of the glass. Plenty of black fruit, with a touch of plum, spice and vanilla. The wine has superb length and balance on the finish. ($35)

(92) Poliziano “In Violas” Merlot 2011 (Italy). Blackberry, black licorice, clay and earth tones with hints of cinnamon and leather. Juicy mid-palate with more sweet dark fruit on the finish. ($22)

(92) Santa Ema Reserve (Chile). Plums, currants and blackberries with hints of dark chocolate arise from your glass. Easy tannins with a touch of spice. Balanced and medium-bodied. Would hold up to grilled meats. ($15)

(92) Stags’ Leap Merlot 2009 (California). A dry, ageable red with fine tannins and beautiful complexity. Drinking beautifully now, and should age nicely. ($40)

(92) St. Supery Rutherford Estate Merlot 2012 (California). Very, very dark ruby in color. The nose and palate are rich with black fruit, with coffee and spice hints. Quite weighty on the palate, the fruit shines through with excellent structure. An outstanding finish. ($50)

(92) Whitehall Lane Napa Merlot 2013 (California). A delicious merlot bursting with blackberry, dark cherry, plum and red currant flavors. The mid-palate is lush and full, giving way to a touch of mocha and finishing long with a hint of spice. ($22)

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