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A BIG Merlot at a very SMALL price

Columbia Crest Grand Estate Merlot 2011
Alison Brooks

Columbia Crest Grand Estate Merlot 2011

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A wine that was given 90 points by Wine Enthusiast as well as rated the number one wine of the year by Wine Spectator in 2009 (and numerous other awards and high ratings) sounds like it could be on the pricey side. However, there are tons of wines with high ratings priced under $20.

Columbia Crest wines have been around since the early 80's. It's one of those wineries that has a wide variety wines in just as many price ranges, from very affordable to pricier special occasion wines -- which is appealing to many wine consumers. Who doesn't like options? Based in the great wine growing region of Columbia Valley (WA), Columbia Crest wines have come a long way since getting their start. In 1990 they were awarded one of the 24 best value wineries, as well as being the only U.S. wine to win a gold medal in Bordeaux, France at the 'Challenge de Vin". Most recently, in 2012 named one of the best products of the year by the Today Show. There is a good chance that you have sipped on Columbia Crest at some point in time, but just didn't know you were drinking wine from such a highly awarded winery.

A recent Costco trip led to the purchase of Columbia Crest Grand Estate Merlot 2011. They have a new wine label which is much more appealing than the old plain white one. It stands out more and in general looks more inviting. This particular Merlot is now a new favorite. The moment you pour this wine into the glass you know it's going to be delicious. The color is dark and ink like - the aroma is filled with dark berries and chocolate. The first sip is like a party on the palate. Dark chocolate covered cherries melt on your tongue, while a smooth caramel finish lingers on the palate. This is just an exciting Merlot. It has the dark fruit, the chocolate and the long lasting, but very welcoming finish.

Prices vary at stores anywhere from $7-13. Costco in Pentagon City has it for $7, Total Wine & More $7.97 and Safeway has it for $12. This is also a wine that can be found at many restaurants in Arlington. A few spots in Arlington listed below carry the Grand Estate Merlot.

Sine Irish Pub on Joyce Street
Top Thai on 23rd Street South
Carlyle in Shirlington
Sweetwater Tavern Falls Church