The 14 Hands Vineyards Columbia Valley Merlot is 78% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Syrah, 1% Grenache and 1% Cabernet Franc sourced from several vineyards in the Columbia Valley of Washington State. 14 Hands refers to the height of the wild mustangs that used to roam the Columbia Valley, the average regular horse is 15 hands tall (a hand is 4 inches). 14 Hands is one of Chateau Ste Michelle’s lineup of wines that includes Columbia Crest and several others. The Merlot was aged in French and American oak and the alcohol content is 13.5%. The 14 Hands Merlot should sell in the $10 to $12 range.
The color is a dark, rich black cherry red. The nose is black cherry, plums, dark chocolate and some toasty vanilla. This Merlot is silky smooth with rich, ripe flavors. It tastes of amaretto cherry with a hint of chocolate fudge (but with non of the sweetness), blueberry and POM Wonderful. The mid palate adds a slight tug from the tannins, just enough to give this Merlot a firm structure, along with a final shot of tart raspberry. The finish is large and long.
I happen to agree with Bordeaux winemakers, that Merlot is often best used as a blending grape and the 2 Bordeaux grapes and the 2 Rhone Valley grapes that are added to the mix make the 14 Hands Merlot a knockout. This is a smooth, approachable, easy to drink Red, that is just loaded with flavor and has solid balanced structure. I don’t know why, but I kept thinking of an Italian beef sandwich with caramelized onions while I was sipping this Merlot, so there is a pairing tip for you. The 2010 14 Hands Merlot is a very solid Red wine that drinks way above its price tag.