Franciscan Estate Napa Valley 2007 Merlot (92% Merlot, 5% Syrah, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 1% Petit Verdot) $13.50-$20.00, 89 points, has a youthful Burgundy color with a dark core, spectacular aroma of flowers and cooking spice, carried nicely on a medium body of of firm acidity and noticeable tannin, with flavors of tart cherry and violet hints, finishing on a fair bed of spice.
Merriam Vineyards Windacre Russian River Valley 2005 Merlot is labeled Melot, but it is a Bordeaux-styled wine (93% Merlot 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2% Cabernet Franc), $29.70-$32.99, 90 points, steps-up the intensity with a bit more alcohol (14.2% vs. 13% and 13.5% respectively). Having a youthful Burgundy color with clear-bright ruby hints radiating from a near black core, this Merlot (Bordeaux style) wine has an aroma of fall leaves and a touch of alcohol, a medium bodied wine of a balanced acidity and a light to moderate tannin presence. The flavor profile is black fruit and Damson plum. There is a bit of heat throughout, but that heat is most noticeable on the long finish.
Three Merlot wines, very similar in color and flavor, with some differences in aroma, but the Merriam stands out in alcohol and price; for $13.50 the 2007 Franciscan (Bought on sale at Hannaford's supermarket, Hooksett, NH) is your "Best Buy", but if you're out for quality and 1 or 2 points makes a difference to you, then give the Merriam a try (Bought at http://www.bellavinonh.com/ ).
Just a note on "Grand Vin" which means a winery's best wine (this was a small "blind tasting") and 88 points might not seem like a fair score, but that 88 points really out shine's and makes MUCH MORE sense than WS giving Stag's Leap Artemis 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon 80 points; I guess my repeating this gripe manifests my disorientation with their reality, but once again they're the pros.
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