J. Bookwalter 2004 Merlot (Columbia Valley (WA))

The clever blend adds 8% Malbec and 8% Petit Verdot; both grapes boost the tannin and color and give the wine a meatiness lacking in most domestic Merlots. The Merlot part ain't shabby either: broad, rich strokes of plum and cherry fruit, saturated in barrel-infused layers of smoke, baking chocolate and espresso. The sweet cherry in the center gives the wine a chocolate bon-bon character, and the finish, with a bit of liquorous heat, suggests that it will drink at its best in the near term. Paul Gregutt

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