Columbia Winery Merlot, Columbia Valley 2013

Columbia Winery Merlot, Columbia Valley 2013: Dark purple color; plum, spice, hint of oak on the nose; plum, dark berries, ripe cherry, cranberry, oak, vanilla, spice on the palate;

medium body, dry; oak tannins linger on the finish; nice acidity, juicy. Merlot leads the flavor profile (87%), with syrah (11%), and malbec (2%) added to give darker color, body, and complexity; the syrah scores some blackcurrant tang in mid-palate and finish. Gallo acquired Columbia Winery in 2012 as part of its move into Washington State; the winery began more than 50 years ago, an effort led by University of Washington professors; today winemaker Sean Hails maintains a tradition of fruit-driven wines with firm acidity and restrained alcohol (13.9%) to make them food-friendly, easy drinkers. Washington State is the second largest wine producing state and enjoys luxury of focusing on producing premium wines thanks to climate, soil, and proclivity of makers toward quality over quantity. Given conditions, Washington wineries are not able to compete with the wine factories in California’s Central Valley, so they picked the right ground to contend upon. Gallo is so huge it plays in every arena, but it seems particularly nimble in the $10-20 range, often by acquiring niche players and letting them continue to do their thing, abetted by the company’s immense resources. Gallo sells more than 25% of all the wine sold in America and is the world’s second largest producer—behind Constellation Brands. This is nice effort that price-for-value merlot enthusiasts will appreciate. $16 Columbia Winery Merlot