Merlot That's Worth It

Much maligned in the movie Sideways, merlot is still trying to shrug off its bad rap nearly 20 years later. And while many vineyard owners pulled merlot to plant pinot noir, there are many who have remained committed to the variety because they've always believed it to be good. Yippee for those willing to look in the shadows!

The 2018 Whitehall Lane Merlot Napa Valley ($35) is one of those wines. It's exudes everything that's good about Napa Valley - structure, poise, density, and an exotic perfume that beguiles - without the eye-watering price tag. The nose alone is enough on this wine: rich and seductive. The rest is all gravy, and the palate follows through on the aromatic promise. Though $35 is a lot for many consumers, it's a fraction of the average Napa Valley wine. If you're inclined to splurge occasionally, you don't want to risk bringing home a dud, and this one is as close to a sure thing as you'll find in Napa. Enjoy with red meat and laughter. 91 points