Twelve Nightcaps Before Christmas – The 6th Nightcap

image_2001250_fullNightcap #6: Milbrandt Vineyards Traditions Merlot 2009, Columbia Valley, Washington $15

I know, I know. We're all supposed to eschew merlot ever since seeing Sideways. Well, I refuse. I happen to love this grape and often find the wines more approachable and easier to pair with food. Merlot, in addition to having many of the flavor characteristics of cabernet sauvignon – black cherry, vanilla, mocha – can have the most soothing and enjoyable velvet-like finish. It's my liquid version of comfort food. I will never say no to a merlot from Bordeaux (where there is actually more merlot planted than cabernet sauvignon), but I have found merlot from Washington state to be excellent, and with an affordable price tag. 

In the tradition of Bordeaux, this wine is a blend – merlot (76%), cabernet sauvignon (22%) and cabernet franc (2%). Butch Milbrandt, originally from Oregon, moved to Washington and launched this winery in 2005. Washington is the second largest producer of vinifera wine (think European) in the United States. It is America's primary site for riesling and, although most of the grapes grown are chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, the merlot and shiraz produced here are the wines that actually meet with the highest critical acclaim. So, go on. Try a merlot for just one night. You can go back to being a pinot snob the other 6 days of the week.