Merlot Rides High Again—Wine Spectator’s Top 10 Wines of 2017

Wine Spectator released its Top 10 wines of 2017 this week with a noticeable nod to Napa Valley, which snagged the No. 9, No. 8, and No. 1 spots. Duckhorn Vineyards 2014 Merlot Napa Valley Three Palms Vineyard received the magazine’s esteemed No. 1, which makes me happy. My husband proposed to me in 1998 with a bottle of Duckhorn 1995 Merlot Napa Valley Estate the day after we completed the LA Marathon. I have followed the Duckhorn label for years now, with appreciation for its dedication to merlot since 1978. There is a bit of hype that a merlot was top choice, along with some hope that the distinction might end the years-long knock the varietal took from the 2004 movie Sideways, when Paul Giamatti’s character refused to drink it.

The winning wines are difficult to come by once the list is released. However, vintners like Duckhorn make several merlots from their other vineyards sites. Their 2014 wines garnered 93+ points from the magazine as well. So shop around, search the Internet, and better yet, open your search to the full Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines of 2017. Here are the Top 10.

  1. Napa Valley, Calif. Duckhorn Vineyards 2014 Merlot Napa Valley Three Palms Vineyard. 95 points, $98. A warmer vineyard than merlot typically likes, but the rocky, volcanic soils make the vines dig deep for water, building distinct character.
  2. Walla Walla, Wash. K Vintners 2014 Syrah Walla Walla Valley Powerline Estate. 95 points, $45. Charles Smith, former rock n’ roll band manager, hit payday with this new vineyard, which he planted in 2012.
  3. Bordeaux, France Chateau 2014 Coutet Barsac. 96 points, $37. A beautiful dessert wine with an approachable price.
  4. Tuscany, Italy Casanova di Neri 2012 Brunello di Montalcino. 95 points, $65. The estate’s “white label” wine persevered during this weather-challenged vintage.
  5. Rhone Valley, France Chateau de St.-Cosme 2015 Gigondas. 95 points, $43. 70 percent grenache, 15 percent mouvedre, 14 percent syrah, 1 percent cinsault from the Southern Rhone in a “classic” vintage.
  6. Loire Valley, France Domaine Huet 2016 Vouvray Demi-Sec Le Mont. 95 points, $44. The Loire’s best vintage since 2010 in a healthy, biodynamically farmed estate.
  7. Bordeaux, France Chateau Canon-La Gaffeliere 2014 St.-Emilion. 95 points, $61. Stephan von Neipperg continues to develop beautiful classic Bordeaux since moving to organic practices. 55 percent merlot, 37 percent cabernet franc, 8 percent cabernet sauvignon.
  8. Napa Valley, Calif. Meyer 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley. 95 points, $70. Grown in the Gordon Valley in the southeast corner of Napa Valley bordering Solano County.
  9. Napa Valley, Calif. Pahlmeyer 2015 Chardonnay Napa Valley. 95 points, $75. Chardonnay grown at the high elevations produces small clusters and small berries creating an elegant wine in the renowned California chardonnay style.
  10. Paso Robles, Calif. Booker 2014 Oublie Paso Robles. 95 points, $80. Owner and winemaker Eric Jensen is receiving remarkable accolades for his Rhone varietals grown in his biodynamic vineyards.

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