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2001 Sagelands Vineyard "Four Corners" Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington

I have been searching for some lower priced wines that I can serve at a large birthday party and at a wedding, and I have already reviewed a possible choice here but I think I may end up serving this Sagelands because it is extremely accessible and I think most people will love it.

A friend of mine suggested this wine to me and after taking the bottle home I came across the "best buy" designation in my latest Wine Spectator. This wine is a big commercial release, which I tend to try and avoid (both drinking and writing about), but I'm always on the lookout for good values and great flavors regardless of the provenance. Produced by the Chalone Wine Group, which owns the Chalone and Dynamite labels among others, it's almost a textbook explanation for why America loves Merlot -- approachable, fruity, a little bit of spice, but generally something you would want to drink while standing around in an art gallery or reheating some leftovers at home.

Tasting Notes:
Colored somewhere between blood and ruby red, the wine opens with a nose of plum, rasins, eucalyptus, and i'll be darned if it isn't a little bit of cooked artichoke aroma in there. The body of the wine is soft with fruit flavors of currants, plum, and notes of black pepper. The tannins sit forward in the mouth, softly, and allow the wine to finish very smoothly.

Food Pairing:
I think this is a particularly good cheese wine (not for the kind of serious cheese you might be used to serving with wine, but mellower, art party type of cheese) that you might throw into a picnic basket and head off into the hills for some prosciutto and brie sandwiches with rosemary fig confit.

Overall Score: 7.5/8

How much?: $12-15

This wine can be found at gourmet markets like Whole Foods and Andronicos and can also be purchased online at various Internet merchants including Porthos.

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