Rex-Goliath Merlot

Name: Rex-Goliath Merlot
Type: Red
Origin: U.S. – California
Year: non-vintage
Price: $10.99

This is another repeat visit for me and I’ve enjoyed the Rex-Goliath wines in the past so I was looking forward to this. As usual, the bottle is talking about that huge rooster and bragging about winning wine competitions. The color is a light ruby hue and the nose is softly aromatic with plenty of raspberry. The flavor is very fruit forward, with raspberry, cherry and boysenberry notes. It’s a lighter bodied wine with very little tannin and a round, supple body.

This wine is fairly direct, there aren’t layers of complexity here, but I would expect that for the price. It’s a very affable wine for short money, well in keeping with the Rex-Goliath tradition.

Bottle of Rex-Goliath Merlot

Cupcake Merlot Review

Name: Cupcake Merlot
Type: Red
Origin: U.S. – California
Year: 2012
Price: $10.99

In another marketing coup for wineries, I think Cupcake sells a ton of wine primarily because of their delicious name. People love cupcakes, it’s like a cultural phenomenon that I don’t entirely understand. It’s on the way out at this point, but still, it’s pretty amazing that a whole industry arose to fill the seemingly insatiable desire of Americans for cupcakes. Why not just cakes? Too fattening? Not portable enough? Makes no sense.

Anyway, this is Cupcake’s Merlot. The problem with calling a wine “Cupcake” is that wine never tastes like cupcakes, it sets the wrong stage for a wine’s flavor. This wine is ruby colored and cherry scented. The flavor is fruity as well, with a medium mouthfeel and mild tannins. The finish is short but the overall experience is decidedly decent. Again, it’s hard to deliver on the promise of cupcakes, but I’d give it a 5 out of 10.

Redwood Creek Merlot

Name: Redwood Creek Merlot
Type: Red
Grape: Merlot
Origin: U.S. – California
Year: 2006
Producer: Frei Bros. Vineyards
Price: $6.99

Deep purple in color and I’d say the aroma is dominated by black pepper. The flavor is interesting with a solid punch of fruit punctuated with some moderate tannins. There’s almost a sweet aura to the flavor although it’s a dry wine. A few tiny off flavors but nothing to complain loudly about at $7 a bottle.

Butterfly Ridge Merlot

Name: Butterfly Ridge Merlot
Type: Red
Grape: Merlot
Origin: U.S. – California
Year: 2004
Producer: Butterfly Ridge Vintners
Price: $5.00

This wine is truly vile. This is one of those times you’re really lucky you have the good ol’ Cheap Wine Guy tasting wines for you; you wouldn’t want to try this at home. It smells like burnt herbs and spices along with a little “stinky garbage” aroma. That’s more or less what it tastes like as well. There’s a little sweetness at first, but then the flavor just falls apart. Nasty flavors, overbearing tartness and a tacky finish to complete the experience. The original price was $7.99 and I got it on sale for 2 for $10 but even at that price it’s a rip off.

Oak Vineyards Merlot

Name: Oak Vineyards Merlot
Type: Red
Grape: Merlot
Origin: U.S. – California
Year: 2005
Producer: Oak Vineyards
Price: $4.00

I was able to pick up some wines in the “super cheap” class at a new liquor store in Nashua, NH. I got these (potential) beauties for 3 for $12. The store itself is very impressive. It’s in the Trader Joe’s plaza across from the Pheasant Lane mall in Nashua and I think it’s simply called The Liquor Shop. The atmosphere is absolutely pristine, everything in its place and displayed appealingly. The wine selection is middling, not huge, but the beer selection is out of this world. Check it out if you’re in the neighborhood. This merlot has an aroma of unripe grapes and a deep red color. The flavor is smooth and slightly sweet but unremarkable in every other regard. Some of that unripe aroma makes it into the flavor and the finish is short. It’s not great but for four bucks it doesn’t turn my stomach either. It also gets a couple extra credit points for having a real cork, a classy touch especially in this price range.

Avia Merlot

Name: Avia Merlot
Type: Red
Grape: Merlot
Origin: Chile
Year: 2005
Producer: Vinska Klet Goriska BRDA
Price: $4.00

This is a new cheap brand for me, I hadn’t heard of Avia before but they sure have it in plentiful supply and in many varieties at my liquor store so I thought I’d give it a go. It’s Chilean wine bottled by a Slovenian distributor. It definitely smells cheap, of unripe grapes and oak. The flavor begins smooth and somewhat fruity but turns to a nasty medicine-like flavor almost immediately and that flavor carries through the finish. It’s only four bucks so I didn’t expect much but it’s really barely palatable.

Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2004

Name: Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot
Type: Red
Grape: Merlot
Origin: U.S. – Washington
Year: 2004
Producer: Columbia Crest Winery
Price: $11.99

This wine has a high bar set for it, the 2003 vintage was so good it earned a “Cheap Thrill” seal of approval. They changed the label a bit and I think it looked more elegant before. The label says that a third of the grapes are not crushed but added whole to create a distinctive flavor, which is pretty interesting. The aroma is potent and earthy and the flavor starts soft and fruity but develops on the palate with mild tannins leading to a medium finish. This is a very likable wine, though it lacks the complexity of the 2003 vintage and it costs a dollar more, which is enough to deprive it of another “Cheap Thrill” award.

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Robert Mondavi Private Selection Merlot

Name: Robert Mondavi Private Selection Merlot
Type: Red
Grape: Merlot
Origin: U.S. – California
Year: 2005
Producer: Robert Mondavi
Price: $9.99

I wasn’t impressed by the Cab of the same label but I already bought it so I’m giving the Merlot a try. It has the same, very pleasant looking label on the bottle. Dark berries and spice on the aroma and a flavor that defines “fruit forward.” As soon as this stuff hits your mouth…BLAM! You get a very healthy dose of fruit followed by a tiny hint of oak and a quickly fleeting finish. I like this one much better than the Cab and this would be a great wine to take to a party. Pretty much anyone who likes red wine could appreciate it to some degree and the label makes it look like you spent more on the bottle than you did.

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ForestVille Merlot – 2005

Name: ForestVille – 2005
Type: Red
Grape: Merlot
Origin: U.S. – California
Year: 2005
Producer: ForestVille Vineyard
Price:$6.99

This is the third or fourth year I’ve tasted this same Merlot from the same vineyard. It’s never a bad wine and it can show flashes of brilliance in certain years. It has a nice fruity aroma and a light purplish red color. The flavor starts smooth and grows more tart as it sits on your palate. The core of the flavor is not-quite-ripe berries with notes of citrus and some very subtle tannins. Not bad but not the best year I’ve had.

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McManis Merlot

Name: McManis Merlot
Type: Red
Grape: Merlot
Origin: U.S. – California
Year: 2006
Producer: McManis Family Vineyards Inc.
Price: $12.00

The label feels like parchment paper and has a very Californian look to it. The wine is deep purple in the glass and has a potent aroma of dark fruit and almost a creamy sweetness to it. The flavor is very smooth and full of ripe blackberry flavors, a true Merlot in every sense. This is an extremely likable wine at a reasonable, though not rock-bottom, price.

Check out Wine.com’s Most Popular Wines Under $20.