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The third in a triad of Gallo of Sonoma wines I've had recently, this one purchased for a scant $9. My general impressions of the brand: good, dependable table wines; perhaps not of stellar quality, but nice and cheap.

I'm not the biggest fan of Merlot, but the wife likes one occasionally. I like full bodied red wines with good fruitiness, but Merlot tends to overwhelm me. You swirl, take a sniff, take a sip, then WHACK! and you're awash in blackberry or cherry or something. One of the nice features of this wine is that it's not overpowering, though it is not really subtle either. Perhaps the best descriptor is understated or muted. I liked it for that reason, but perhaps Merlot purists will think it weak.

It's a deep red, just a shade in the purple range, but not so blue as to appear young and immature. The aromas are of a spicy vanilla, and maybe a touch of mint or another herbal something. The taste delivers a good strong core of fruit without too much fanfare. The tannins are nice--not too big, not too light--and help provide a bit of backbone and a moderate finish reminiscent of oak. I drank this alongside some beef I ate last night, but the thing it really worked well with was chocolate--perhaps this would be a good after dinner wine for those not interested in either traditional sweet wines or fortified wines. It's generally understated character might also make it a good "gateway" wine for those making the leap into reds.

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