From Cabs to Syrah to, yes, even Merlots, these are the Best Red Wines in Washington state that this panel of experts think you should be drinking now. Our friends over at Seattle Magazine have scrounged up the top wines for 2012 and complied them into a list for your imbibing pleasure.

Merlot under $20
Winner: Columbia Crest H3 2009, Horse Heaven Hills, $15
Created to highlight the Horse Heaven Hills AVA, this lush Merlot (with 3 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 1 percent Malbec) has aromas of dust/minerality and dark cherries, with black pepper and chocolate-covered cherry lushness that Merlot drinkers love. Winemaker Juan Muñoz Oca aged this wine in mostly neutral French and American oak for a velvety texture. It’s hard to beat such a well-made Washington Merlot—in a state where there’s a lot of great Merlot—for the price. Paterson; 509.875.4227; columbiacrest.com

Nominees:
Blacksmith 2008, Columbia Valley, $18
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2009 Indian Wells Merlot, Columbia Valley, $18
Jones of Washington 2008 Estate Merlot, Wahluke Slope, $14.99

Merlot over $20
Winner: Abeja 2009, Columbia Valley, $38
Winemaker John Abbott calls this Merlot his “gentle giant.” And truly, it is a big wine, a product of the near-perfect 2009 vintage, which imparted luscious fruit of dark cherries and plums, with aromas of chocolate and espresso, along with earthiness and minerality and a backbone of tannins that help this Columbia Valley wine feel extremely balanced on the palate. The fruit is 100 percent Merlot, from Heather Hill, Abeja’s estate vineyard in the Mill Creek area of Walla Walla Valley, and Sagemoor’s Bacchus Vineyards on the banks of the Columbia River near Pasco in the Columbia Valley AVA. Abbott has a magic touch, and that, along with nature’s best work, makes this wine a true winner. Walla Walla (tasting room open seasonally to mailing-list members or overnight guests at its inn); 509.526.7400; abeja.net

Nominees:
Hestia Cellars 2009, Columbia Valley, $28
Pedestal 2008, Columbia Valley, $55
Soos Creek Wine Cellars 2008 Palisade, Columbia Valley, $24.99

Check out the complete list of must-try wines and their descriptions over at Seattle Magazine.

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