Best Merlot Wines for Any Budget

Paige with an assortment of Best Merlot Wines - she's drinking wine and 8 bottles sit in front of her

Looking for the best Merlot wines for your budget?

Each October, I rejoice as the temperatures cool and leaves begin their transition into bright auburn colors – luscious reds, fiery oranges, golden yellows. Harvest comes to a close here in wine country and the aromas of pumpkin spice and savory homecooked meals hang in the air. 

Ah, Merlot  Season is here. 🍷

If you’re looking for the best Merlot Wines for any budget, I’ve got you covered! I’ve blind tasted through this incredible lineup of wines (and a few duds we won’t mention here) to find the best of the best, including best inexpensive Merlots, best grocery store Merlot, and best high-end Merlots you need to try!

Merlot Grapes hanging on a vine

Merlot 101

What is Merlot?
Before we get into it, let’s chat just a bit about what to expect in good Merlot wine. Merlot is a red grape variety known for its soft, silky texture and red fruit flavors. In cooler climates, it often displays green vegetal notes, but warmer climates lend to more dark chocolate cherry and fruitcake flavors. My favorite Merlots have notes of dark chocolate, ground espresso, and dark, brooding red fruits. 

Merlot History

Merlot is one of the varieties commonly found in Bordeaux. The grape adds delectable softness and luscious fruit flavors to the wines, especially balancing out Cabernet Sauvignon. These varieties complement each other so well that the pair is now renown, the main ingredients for the Bordeaux blend, coveted by wine drinkers. You can now found this blend all over the world.

Merlot Fun Facts

Merlot translates to “The Little Blackbird” in French, but no one is quite sure of the name reference. Some believe it could be a reference to the dark skin of the grape, while others believe it refers to the blackbirds that have a fondness for eating the grapes off the vine.

While Merlot is a Bourdeaux variety grape, it’s also grown in other regions around the world including Italy, the United States, Chile, Australia, and even other French wine regions.

Merlot is the second most popular red grape in America, after Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot is often recommended as the first red wine someone new to red wine should drink due to its approachability. It’s known for being soft, ripe, and elegant, as well as pairing great with a variety of foods, but you can also enjoy this wine on its own. 

October is Merlot month, a global movement celebrating the delicious red wine. Food-friendly, fruit-forward, complex… Merlot has it all. And I want to sip it all month long!

To help you do so, I’ve rounded up the best Merlot wines at every price point.

A hand holds a bottle of Bonterra Merlot - one of the best Merlot wines

Best Merlot Under $15

Robert Mondavi Private Selection, ~$10

If you’re looking for the best cheap merlot under $10 that still packs a punch, offering smooth and balanced flavors of cherry, plum, and strawberry, followed by hints of black olive, cedar, and spice, Robert Mondavi Private Selection is the perfect choice. From California’s Central Coast, a large wine region offering great fruit for value prices, this wine is an easy everyday choice!

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Bonterra Merlot, ~$13

Crafted from organic vineyards, Bonterra Merlot has a distinctive expression. Notes of strawberry and pomegranate are framed by a subtle suggestion of dried herbs. This medium-bodied wine has an elegant tannin structure and a velvety finish. Hailing from the coastal Mendocino region, this Merlot blend also has small percentages of Syrah, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon, bringing depth and complexity to the wine.

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Goose Ridge G3 Merlot,  ~$15

This easy-drinking fruit-forward Merlot displays flavors of black cherry, cranberry, spice, and cocoa. It’s a bottle that you can easily sip on solo, or pair with some food.

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Best Merlot Under $20

Napa Cellars Merlot, ~$20

Napa Cellars wines have been a staple in my household since I got into wine. They deliver great value at affordable prices, all hailing from my favorite region – Napa! If you’re looking for the best inexpensive Merlot (or the best inexpensive wines in general), be sure to check out their lineup. This Merlot, in particular, has notes of cedar and crisp, autumn leaves, followed by mild-mannered red currant and plum. It’s an excellent holiday wine, or perfect for any time of year!

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Decoy Merlot, ~$20

This Sonoma-county Merlot is a lush and inviting wine highlighting the elegance of the varietal. Decoy is a widely accessible bottle that always results in a consistently good glass of Merlot. It’s my top-pick for best grocery store Merlot!

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Ancient Peaks Paso Robles Merlot, ~$20

Ancient Peaks is a family-owned winery in Paso Robles. Wine Enthusiast consistently rates their wines high, and this is one of my personal favorites! The warm climate in Paso Robles allows for Merlot to develop enticing ripe fruit aromas, such as raspberry and black cherry. These fruit notes are followed by a hint of something more complex: cedar, cocoa dust, and baking spices. Yum!

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Best Merlot Under $30

L’Ecole Columbia Valley Merlot,  $25 

Exhibiting complex layers of red fruit, accented by crushed roses, pencil shavings, and smoky cedar nuances, this full-bodied, vigorous Merlot bursts with flavors of macerated berries, coffee, and kirsch. There’s a reason I love wine from Walla Walla!

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Seven Hills Winey Walla Walla Merlot, ~$26

This food-friendly Merlot offers aromas of mountain raspberries, ripe red cherries, and dark chocolate, leading ito velvety tannins and a smooth finish. Pair the Seven Hills Merlot with any of your favorite fall foods, or a delicious fall charcuterie board!

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Rutherford Hill Merlot,~$30

Elegantly refined with a beautiful bouquet of rich aromas and prolonged flavors. Think: lavish black fruit and rich dark chocolate. I also love the hints of black tea  and minerality you pickup in this delicious Merlot.

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Best Merlot Under $50

Northstar Merlot, ~$40

Rich, concentrated yet elegant. A perfect wine to unwind with after a long day and pair with strong cheeses.

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St. Francis Reserve Merlot, ~$40

Full-bodied, rich, and velvety, featuring toasty aromas of plum pudding, espresso, and black licorice. Full of depth with notes of mocha, blackberry and baking chocolate emerging before the lengthy finish.

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Smith Devereux IBEX Merlot, ~$45

One of my go-to recommendations. Sustainably farmed and hand-harvested at the base of Spring Mountain, this Merlot is rich and complex. Allow it to aerate for 20-3o minutes before serving to really open up. Blackberry, Dark Raspberry, Chocolate, Leather, Tobacco, and Soft Black Pepper.

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Duckhorn Napa Valley Merlot, ~$50

Fundamental to Duckhorn’s tradition was the early decision to focus on the production of Merlot. Dan Duckhorn felt that this elegant varietal was underappreciated in North America. This easy-to-find bottle makes a great gift or wine to pick up for holiday dinners. Notable depth and structure, as well as signature flavors of black cherry, plum and spice.

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Sutro Merlot, ~$50

Female winemaker who crafts wine like a true artist. Aromas of red cherry, raspberry, cocoa, dried roses, orange peel, and subtle bay leaf. Palate of bright cherry, hint of blueberry with a bit of chocolate and fresh vanilla bean. Long finish with juicy acidity and supple tannins.

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Best Merlot Wines at a Baller Budget

Rutherford Hill Oakville Merlot,  ~$65

Ruby in color, this wine provides rich aromas black cherry intermingled with cinnamon and cardamom spice notes while delivering a lush and full-bodied mouthfeel with flavors of cassis and dark chocolate.

Sullivan James O’Neil Merlot ~$250

Sullivan Estates crafts this Merlot like a world-class Napa Cabernet, using only the best grapes from the best vineyards on the best terroir. The price point may shock some, but I swear a glass of this is worth it. This Merlot is defined by its structure, but it is the layers of black oily fruit that has been distilled down into a savory mixture of minerality and bitter cocoa powder. The length is undeniable, as the full-body richness exudes luxury and power that only a few Merlots in the world can achieve. 

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