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90+ point rated wines under $20

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2004 Buttonwood Farm Winery Merlot**
buttonwoodSB.jpg Region Price Tasted Date
Santa Barbara, CA $18 @ the Winery 11/27/07
Medium-bodied with concentrated aromas of dried cherry and clove. Those flavors follow through on the palate along with plum, allspice, cola, and a touch of oak. The short finish and medium tannins detract from the initial pleasure. More interesting than many merlots made these days, but still not good enough to buy.

2004 Chateau Quinalt "L'Enclos" Grand Cru**
quinalt.jpg Region Price Tasted Date
St. Emilion, Bordeaux $40 Wine House 11/13/07
Black cherry, mocha, iron, licorice and exotic spices on the nose. Juicy and bright, with a slight peppery quality lifting the middle palate. Not especially fleshy or sweet but spicy and aromatic. Finishes with dusty tannins and good verve.

2004 Moonstone Cellars Merlot**
moonstone.jpg Region Price Tasted Drank
Paso Robles, CA $18 @ the Winery 1/22/08
A medium-bodied, ruby colored wine with mild aromas of black cherry, currant and tea leaves that follow through on the palalte with a notes of mint and smoke on the finish. Supple tannins give this wine a soft texture and make it drinkable right out of the bottle. More restrained than most CA Merlots. A well-crafted wine for the price.

2004 RiverStar Vineyards Merlot**
riverstarmerlot.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $25 @ the Winery 8/20/08
A deep, ruby-colored wine with a big nose of blackberries, black cherries, cocoa and spices with a touch of heat and minerality. The palate is full-bodied with the same flavors as the nose with additional sweet vanilla and spicy oak nuances. The finish is soft and ripe with some smoke and earth as it lingers. Well-balanced and easy to drink, this wine is ready to go now. Delivers good flavor though not enough complexity for the price. Was worth the $18 we paid for it.

2004 Sebastiani Vineyards Sonoma County Merlot**
sebastianinmerlot.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Sonoma, CA $18 Ralphs 9/23/08
This deep, garnet-colored wine has a medium-body with soft tannins and low acidity. The nose is aromatic with notes of black fruit, smoke, violets and spice. The palate is ripe with blueberry, cranberry, black cherry and plum flavors along with hints of cocoa, oak and notes of vanilla on the finish. A well-constructed, interesting wine that just lacks the weight and finish to bring it up another level, however, year in, year out a lovely Merlot for the price.

2003 Columbia Crest Two Vines Merlot**
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Columbia Valley, WA $10 Wine.com 12/9/07
This medium-bodied, ruby-colored wine offers intense aromas of spice, blackberry, and raspberry with expressions of cocoa and soft velvet on the palate. A hint of chocolate completes the lingering finish. Eminently quaffable, but nothing overly memorable.


2003 Chateau Haut-Colombier Blaye***
haut_colombier_blaye.jpg Region Price Tasted Date
Bordeaux, France $22 Private Dinner 4/23/08
A deep, ruby/purple colored wine with big fruit aromas and hints of earth and vanilla. The palate is soft and full-bodied with significant, yet integrated tannins and flavors of ripe blackberry and cherry fruit, sweet spice, herbs and notes of pepper and oak on the lingering finish. Coming from the super hot 2003 vintage, this wine is definitely not your typical Bordeaux Merlot, which is probably why I liked it so much. This wine is drinking beautifully now and should probably be drunk sooner rather than later to take advantage of its' lush texture and fruit.

2002 Monjardin Deyo Merlot*
monjardin.jpg Region Price Tasted Date
Navarra, Spain $12 Gift 4/11/08
A medium-garnet colored wine with a light nose of red berries, minerals, herbs and a touch of stewed fruit. The palate is medium-bodied with balanced acidity, soft tannins and flavors of plum, fig, black cherry and smoke with mineral, stewed and vegetal notes on the moderate finish. This wine is definitely at or beyond it's peak. It's still drinkable, but certainly not all it was and should be drunk as soon as possible.

1997 Rutherford Hill Winery Merlot**
97RutherfordHillMerlot.jpg Region Price Tasted Drank
Napa Valley, CA $35 Private Party 11/27/10
A medium, ruby-colored wine with moderate aromas of red fruit, earth, cedar and hints of herbs and coffee. The palate was medium-bodied with well-integrated tannins and moderate acidity which was unexpected for a wine this old. While the fruit was still there with flavors of cherry, cranberry and plum, it was really the secondary characteristics of herb, mineral and oak that were more obvious. We were sure this wine was going to be fairly dead, but we were pleasantly surprised from the first sip to the last. While I believe it's well past its' prime, it still delivered an enjoyable few glasses. While mainly Merlot, it has 14% Cabernet Franc and a smidge of Petit Verdot which could account for some of its longevity. We weren't sure what the provenance of this bottle was, so if you have one that's been well cared for, this wine might still be in very good shape. As it was it proved how ageworthy Merlot can be. (13.8% abv/82,000 cases)

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**** Outstanding | *** Delicious | ** Enjoyable | * Drinkable
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