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The Best of the Best 2003: Domestic Red Wines – Duckhorn 1999 Estate Grown Napa Valley Merlot

The second most widely incorporated Bordeaux grape, Merlot, suffered unjustly in the 1980s at the hands of indifferent winemakers, whose mass-market goal was to produce a kinder, gentler alternative to Cabernet that ladies could sip with impunity in singles bars. The results were neither kind nor gentle. Like much else that went culturally awry in that decade, these ham-fisted efforts, in their ubiquity, implanted an abiding aversion in the minds of many to what is one of the palate’s great pleasures.

Anyone who ever ordered a house Merlot in decades past should treat himself to the Duckhorn 1999 Estate Grown Napa Valley Merlot,a masterfully smoky blend of coffee, chocolate, and burnished fruit that lingers alluringly on the tongue.

Describing a wine in sexual terms usually results in absurdities, as well

as embarrassment for the author; still, one is tempted. Suffice it to say that this vintage is both sensual and satisfying.

Duckhorn Wine Co., 888.354.8885, www.duckhorn.com, $80

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