WWBG: Washington State Merlot

Editor’s Note: This new weekly sponsored column is written by the staff of Georgetown Square Wine and Beer (10400 Old Georgetown Road).

Merlot could be the world’s most misunderstood wine varietal. Sales have decreased and planted acreage of Merlot has plummeted in California all since… a movie came out.

Yup, a 2004 movie called Sideways, which had one of the main characters blast Merlot the entire movie. Since the release of Sideways, Merlot sales in the U.S. have steadily declined.

Merlot’s problems are not a quality and taste issue. It’s a marketing problem. When was the last time a sommelier at a restaurant recommended a Merlot to pair with your dinner? It’s probably been a while.

Most people have it in their head that Merlot is a non-quality grape. This couldn’t be further from the truth. California still grows Merlot in it’s top wine producing regions but use most of it for blending purposes, almost hiding Merlot from standing alone. One region has done the opposite the past few decades and has embraced Merlot as a regional wine, Washington state.

The marriage between Washington state and Merlot is a perfect one. Most believed Washington could not become a high quality wine producing region due to it’s cold climate, but with days filled with sunshine and great soil for wine-making, Washington state has become a major region producing great white wine and supple reds.

Merlots from Washington state struggle to grow through the volcanic and glacial soils, this struggle is a good thing when it comes to wine growing. Along with the warm sunny days and cool nights, winemakers turn these Merlot grapes into bold lush wines that can stand up to a California cab any day of the week.

Here are a few of my favorite Washington state Merlot we have in stock.

Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2008

Columbia Crest is one of Washington state’s most well-known wineries. Situated in the state’s biggest wine growing region, the Columbia Valley, this Merlot is an excellent value wine. 89 points “Best Value” from Wine Spectator.

Chateau St Michelle Indian Wells Merlot 2008

From Chateau St Michelle’s Indian wells vineyard this Merlot offers a fantastic full-bodied wine that will pair nicely with any pasta dish or grilled meats. 90 points from Wine Spectator.

Milbrant Traditions Merlot 2009

Owning and farming over 2,000 acres of quality wine grapes, the Milbrant family has produced some of Washington state’s most prestigious wines. This particular Merlot is very approachable, polished, and supplies a nice smooth finish.

The Velvet Devil Merlot 2011

Vinted and bottled by Charles Smith wines this is a beautiful classic Merlot with a great name, label and incredible smooth juice to back it up.  Charles Smith received the Food & Wine magazine’s winemaker of the year award in 2009. Charles Smith also makes some of best high-end wines in the U.S.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of BethesdaNow.com.

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