Best Merlot under $20
Milbrandt Vineyards 2006 Traditions
(columbia valley, $14.99)
“Classic and well made” with “earth and dark cherry” were some of our judges’ comments on this rich Merlot. As a winery, Milbrandt Vineyards is just a few years old, but its owners, brothers Butch and Jerry Milbrandt, have been growing grapes since 1997. This rich and flavorful wine is a classic example of a Washington Merlot, a versatile food wine, perfect for a steak or roasted chicken. (The winery has sold out of the 2006.)
Best Merlot over $20
Pepper Bridge 2006 Merlot
(walla Walla Valley, $50)
Winemaker Jean-François Pellet makes just a few wines, among them a classic Merlot and a Cabernet Sauvignon that stand apart as some of Washington’s most elegant and complex. This Merlot is lush with dark berry fruit, with a full, dark and complex finish. Unique in that it is delicious and ready to drink, it will also stand the test of time as one of Washington’s strong ageable reds.
Best Cabernet Franc under $20
The Keeper Cabernet Franc
Cabernet Franc is an increasingly beloved varietal, but many labels don’t deliver what Cab Franc lovers expect—dark fruit, earthiness and food-friendly freshness. Corvidae winemaker David O’Reilly is adamant about clean flavors that are true to the varietal character. This sold-out wine is a great value and will make a Cabernet Franc lover out of almost anyone.
Best Cabernet Franc over $20—TIE!
Cellars 2007 Cabernet Franc
(columbia valley, $35)
A nice example of how complex a Cab Franc can be, with smoke, cedar and sweet fruit, this is a first win for Covington Cellars, located in Woodinville’s Warehouse District, which has been garnering fans since Covington’s first releases in 2002. This luscious, earthy wine would be a natural pairing with braised oxtail or grilled lamb with herbs.
Walla Walla Vintners 2007 Cabernet Franc
Winery owners Gordy Venneri and Myles Anderson have a dedicated following of red wine lovers, who enjoy tasting the pair’s latest vintage and chatting with them in their tasting room near Mill Creek. A favorite of winery fans is this Cab Franc, and the judges, too, were seduced by its aromas of violets, dried herbs, dark fruit and vanilla.
Best Cabernet Sauvignon under $20
Columbia Crest 2006 Grand Estates Cabernet Sauv