We got back on track with our regular tasting format this month with the second installment of the Washington Merlot Melee (the first was in April 2006).

We had a clear winner (also the most expensive), but also a tie at second place, consisting of excellent values. These all had similar flavor profiles, but all six tasted distinct from each other, even the two bottles of Velvet Devil.

Overall, David decided that the "top wines, I like them on their own", and Kristin thought that is was a "good representation of what Washington Merlot is". Holly was not impressed however, noting that "I don't even know anymore, I hate them all", and "I'm disappointed with myself".

Photos this month by Andy.

First Place:  Northstar Merlot 2010 (Columbia Valley). Smelled darker than the rest, with complex scents of wild blueberries, blackberries, vanilla, cherry, smoke, leather, and Sambuca. Andy detected "sumac bark", while Ali noted that it "reminds me of whiskey". Holly thought that it "smells like antiques". Good intensity. Nice attack. More structure and more tannin than the others, with flavors reminiscent of meat, blood, pepper, and cinnamon. Brooding and masculine. Ali described it as "very medieval". Cinnamon and eucalyptus on the long finish. Ali, Michael, David, and Kristin's favorite of the night, with a total of 28 points. David's bottle. About $33.

Second Place (tie):  Charles Smith Wines Merlot The Velvet Devil 2014 (Washington State). Tasters found vanilla, plums, cinammon, and dust on the nose. Later, some orange or lemon pith. Tasty, having flavors of plums and black licorice. Nice texture. Andy felt that there was "more to talk about with taste" compared to the nose, and David noted that there was  "plenty of fruit, but not cloying". Smooth texture. Nice balance to hold it together. Holly's favorite. Received 19 points. Andy's bottle. About $16.

Second Place (tie):  Seven Falls Cellars Merlot 2012 (Wahluke Slope). Scents of shoe polish, cola, menthol, Ricola, licorice, and dried herbs. A little bit hot and almost hearty. A lot of toasty oak and vanilla notes. Michael felt that it would "go well with a bloody steak". An herbal note in the mouth, plus flavors of milk chocolate, pine, plums, black cherries, vanilla, and cream. A fruity mid-palate, with good overall harmony. Ali was confused by her thoughts of "pudding", and Holly described the finish like "diet hot cocoa ... which I bought one time by mistake". Andy's favorite. Received 19 points. Michael's bottle. About $14.

Third Place: Columbia Crest Merlot H3 2013 (Horse Heaven Hills). Bright nose, suggesting lemon zest, but also dusty drawer, black cherry, dried herbs, burnt toast, and popcorn. Ali was reminded of a "dusty rose" and "candy shell on the outside of a Red Hot". Plump and tasty in the mouth, having flavors of plums, black cherries, and cola. Ali commented that "if there were prune cola, this would be it". Lively, with a Robitussin quality. Holly felt that it was "sour, but not in a bad way". Anise, eucalyptus, and ink on the finish. Received 13 points. Ali's bottle. About $16.

Charles Smith Wines Merlot The Velvet Devil 2014 (Washington State). Dusty and something funky, like a wet animal. Holly was reminded of "corn, out of the can. Sweet and nasty", while  Kristin found "wet wool". And then we went down a racoon rabbit hole of nonsense. Tastes like skunk. Sour cherry, and not sour in a good way, like Andy licked a shoe. Red fruit. Holly felt that is was a "blueberry patch, that's gotten too much sun", and David noted that "it's been oppressed". Black tea on the finish. Received 5 points. Kristin's bottle. About $20.

Corvidae Merlot Rook 2014 (Yakima Valley). Dusty and funky nose, with some cedar, prune, and cranberry scone notes. Something sweet, and reminiscent of baked goods. A bit shy, hinting at apple skin. Michael proclaimed, "I'm getting a woody .... smell", with a long enough pause that set the tasting group into hysterics, and a detour about masculine performance issues. Andy responded with,"I'll have what he's having". Medicinal in the mouth, like Robitussin, but a bit thin, with a hint of dried lavender. A little more artifical tartness on finish. David felt that it was "a little off balance, not harmonious", while Michael found "cigarettes, ones that have been smoked, not fresh tobacco". Awkward and disjointed. Holly decided that it "makes me want to put meat in my mouth, and I don't eat meat". No points. Holly's bottle. About $15.

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