Santa Rita 120 Merlot

Wine: Santa Rita 120 Merlot

Grape: Merlot

Region: Rapel Valley, Chile

Vintage: 2007

Price: $5.99

In the glass: Santa Rita 120 Merlot is a densely opaque purplish-ruby red color with an inky core going out into a deep crimson rim definition with medium-high viscosity.

On the nose: It is brimming with redolent black and red berry fruit with an underlying base of currants, pepper and spice, gently laced with hints of vanilla from oak barrels, violets and fruit-driven minerals.

On the palate: It is a rich, almost chewy mouthful of wine, and the concentration of black fruit is showing signs of a fairly complex range of tastes with bramble, black plum skins, black currants and spices dominating, but also with melted licorice, smoked almonds and toast. The middle palate is solid with black fruit and smoke dominating, perhaps just a touch of stalky phenolics, but then a wonderfully soft tannin structure. It leads into a great finish that lasts 20-plus seconds with lots of smoke and solid fruit characteristics on the end. This wine is a full-bodied Chilean merlot that is not afraid to come out and play.

Odds and ends: I was looking for the perfect wine for Thanksgiving, an all-around sort of wine for a night of turkey and then mostly a bunch of sweet things that are natural accouterments to the big dinner. I should have been looking for a German riesling, but that was just too easy. Instead, Santa Rita 120 Merlot is the choice if you’d like to enjoy a red wine. It is priced so ridiculously low that it might be one of the best buys of the year. The winemaker is Cecilia Torres of the famous Spanish Torres winemaking family and she has truly grasped the concept of making approachable, yet understated and elegant red wines in this fertile land. It will drink well during the next couple of years.

Gil Lempert-Schwarz’s wine column appears Wednesdays. Write him at P.O. Box 50749, Henderson, NV 89016-0749, or e-mail him at

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