2005 Januik Columbia Valley Merlot ($25)
Winemaker Mike Januik was known as Mr. Merlot when he worked for the Washington megaproducer Chateau Ste. Michelle. His nickname is still apt: Witness this irresistibly plush, mocha-inflected red.
2003 Reininger Walla Walla Merlot ($30)
Blueberry and aromatic oak notes define this graceful, firm red. It’s from a winery that— in the scrappy, D.I.Y. fashion of many Walla Walla Valley producers—operates out of two remodeled potato sheds.
2005 Pepper Bridge Walla Walla Merlot ($50)
Pepper Bridge, founded in 1991, has been a key player in developing the reputation of Washington’s Walla Walla Valley region, and rightly so: Anyone with doubts about Merlot should taste this seductive, velvety, chocolate-and-black-cherry red.