Great Wine Values: Columbia Crest merlot from eastern Washington State

Red wine drinkers typically have a preference for styles that are either more classically structured -- meaning drier, more tart, and more tannic -- or that feature a more modern, relaxed aesthetic that tastes fruitier and feels softer in the mouth.

Among red grapes, merlot has always been more associated with the latter and was the first of the famous red grapes to boom in popularity as a result.

However, when grown on the arid plateau of eastern Washington, merlot offers more heft and substance than it does in California, yielding wines that are a little darker and more intense when compared within the same price tier.

This luscious merlot from the Horse Heaven Hills near Walla Walla is a perfect example, offering all the black cherry and blackberry jam flavors merlot-lovers crave, but with a touch more food-oriented structure and a faint bittersweet cocoa finish.

Columbia Crest H3 merlot, Horse Heaven Hills, Washington, $11.99 (sale price through April 30, regularly $15.99), PLCB Item #6592.