The first bottle opened was a Lecole No 41 Walla Walla Merlot - 1999. Note that this is a library wine, but I believe if it is still available in limited quanities (Contact Jaimie at Lecole and tell her I sent you). The Lecole was priced at $33. It contained 95% Merlot with 5% Cabernet Franc. I was wise to let it stay open for a second day because it just - got - better. I was surprised that with 8 years behind it, this Merlot still had a lot of structure - the tannins were very visible as well as the acidity. This wine really deserved a good beef steak, but at least I was able to pair it with a good piece of chocolate. Lots of cherry, plum and deep rich cocoa on the taste buds with some cigar box on the nose. Surprisingly I could still pick up some oak. If Parker Points interest you, 91-WS and 92 -WE.
The second wine was Sagelands Vineyard Merlot Four Corners - 2003. This label is owned by the Chalone group and bottled in Walla Walla. The "Four Corners" has to do with the four appellations that went into the bottle - Wahluke, Horse Heaven Hills, Rattlesnake and Walla Walla. What a great value this wine is at $13.00! Softer than the Lecole, but still a perfect everyday sipping wine. The nose was very strong of graham cracker and marshmallows. Lots of ripe cherry in flavor and ending with a spicy finish. Do I think it will have the aging power that the Lecole Merlot had? No, but that’s okay. Some of us cannot afford to open a bottle of Lecole library wine for every day sipping (you know - that daily heart medicine that our doctors have prescribed for us). For the quality and the dollar - it’s a great wine for evening patio sipping and I would pair it with a piece of salmon and even smoked salmon for brunch or snacking. Parker Points on that 87-WS and 91-WE and WE gave it a "Best Buy."So the point of this exercise is indeed, when it comes to Merlot, go for the good ones and they will be from Washington State. And no matter the price - you cannot go wrong.