Merlot: It's all in the micro-climates

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Merlot from Washington's Columbia Valley. (Bill Hogan, Chicago Tribune / November 30, 2009)

Food pairings

Serve Columbia Valley merlot with grilled wild salmon, prime rib, roast duck, grilled New York strip steaks, roast beef.

Get a taste

2007 Cadaretta Merlot: A dark cherry color, with notes of chocolate and black cherry on the nose. Medium-bodied, with a deep cherry flavor, there's mouthwatering acidity and a nice tannic snap on the end. Good structure. Serve with roast leg of lamb, grilled steak. ✭✭✭ $35

2007 Seven Hills Merlot: The wine sports a plummy cherry color with a dash of cinnamon overlaying the fruit fragrance. Black cherry on the palate with touches of cocoa. Velvety mouthfeel. Serve with Chinese duck, roast pork loin with cherry glaze. ✭✭✭ $28

2006 Columbia Crest Reserve Merlot: A bright, cheerful wine with its berry flavor plushed with notes of cherry and black pepper. Very smooth. Serve with roast chicken, pate, macaroni and cheese. ✭✭ $24

You want that wine. But your store or area distributor may not choose to carry it. State law may prohibit you from ordering a wine online. What to do? Ask your wine retailer for a wine similar in flavor, style and price. Remember, too, prices vary.

By the numbers

11.4 million: Number of acres in the Columbia Valley AVA

36,400: Number of Columbia Valley acres in Washington planted with wine grapes

1984: Year the Columbia Valley AVA was created

8: Number of sub AVAs within Columbia Valley (see map).

Sources: USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service; Washington State Department of Agriculture Crop Mapping Services

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