Northstar Merlot Review | A Merlot for Cab Lovers?

2010 Northstar Merlot Review | Northstar Winery

Northstar Merlot

Two of my best friends are decamping the Washington D.C. area and are relocating to Seattle sometime this year. While I’m not exactly thrilled that they are moving to the other side of the country, it will give me a great excuse to visit beautiful Washington State from time to time and perhaps even explore it’s burgeoning wine country – where Northstar Merlot is produced.

Already big wine-lovers, their impending move has them drinking almost exclusively Washington State wines these days. It has been great fun to pop the cork on several different examples and most of them have been great if not excellent. One of their favorite go-to bottles has been the Northstar Merlot, which they regularly find for under $30.

But then they told me that the highly-acclaimed 2010 Northstar Merlot was being sold in the Costco Wine Section for under $20! So naturally I jumped at the opportunity to grab a case before it sold out – as the best deals always seem to do.

Northstar Merlot

Appearance: Dense and quite dark at the core making way to a crimson red rim.

Nose: The mildly perfumed nose reveals vanilla, blackberry, blueberry, pine needle, dusty cocoa and baking spices.

On the palate: The 2010 Northstar Merlot is a powerful, tightly-wound wine even at over 4 years old. The mid-palate develops with copious blackberry and black cherry flavors before revealing notes of pine needle, graphite, molasses, cocoa and clove. The tannins are firm and drying. After an extended decant the silky texture begins to reveal itself. While this is enjoyable to drink now I believe it has great aging potential and would benefit from several more years of bottle age to soften the tannin.

Varietal Composition: 78% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Petit Verdot

Vintage: 2010

Origin: Columbia Valley, Washington

Value Rating:  5 / 5

Where I got it: Costco (Arlington, VA)

Price: $19.99 On Sale (Regularly $24.99 at Costco ) – Standard retail from Northstar Winery is $41 for the most recent 2011 vintage release.

Score: 93

Should you buy? Absolutely, this is a Cabernet lover’s Merlot! Even if you only buy the Northstar Merlot to prove to yourself that all Merlot mustn’t be soft and boring. This is a stellar value at Costco’s price.

Northstar Merlot

The Northstar Winery is wholly owned by Washington’s largest winery: Chateau Ste. Michelle. It was founded with goal of producing premium, first-class Merlot from top vineyards in Columbia Valley. Some fun facts about Washington State:

  • Washington State is the second largest wine-producing region in the U.S.
  • The Columbia Valley is the largest wine region within the state of Washington with over 11,000,000 acres.
  • 40,000 of those acres are planted to vine.
  • The Columbia Valley AVA includes an astounding 99% of the total vineyard area within Washington State.
  • A small section of the Columbia Valley actually lies within Oregon.
  • The Cascade Mountains shelter Columbia Valley from much of the harsh storms originating in the Pacific Ocean.
  • Eastern Washington is a semi-arid climate receiving only 6 to 8 inches of annual rainfall.

Northstar Merlot

Value Proposition – Northstar Merlot 2010 | Northstar Winery

If the 2010 Northstar Merlot is any indication, Northstar Winery is not just producing world-class Merlot but is setting the standard. This is excellent Merlot – structured, elegant and complex with real aging potential. Truly a Cabernet lover’s Merlot, the Northstar Merlot has just enough of that silken texture to remind you what you’re drinking. Even Miles might approve of this one!

My suggestion is to check your local Costco Wine Section to see if they have gotten any of the Northstar Merlot in stock. If so, stock up! This is an incredible buy for under $20 and will not last. The 2010 Northstar Merlot even boasts a solid 93 point score from Robert Parker. If you can’t get it in the Costco Wine section, then don’t hesitate to pay a little more for the Northstar Merlot – at under $30 you can rest assured that this is still an excellent value.


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16 thoughts on “Northstar Merlot Review | A Merlot for Cab Lovers?

  1. Joanne and Adam

    Such a great review. We are so excited you finally tried Northstar, especially at such a fantastic price. We are pretty amazed with the idea that we can keep a few bottles for years to come. (We personally bought a case). Here’s to the state of Washington!

    Reply
  2. Ray

    Washington wines are world class in my books. Especially Cabernet and Merlot. I tried the 2009 and thought it was a pretty good wine and thought 91 pts was fair. I can’t wait to try the 2010. The 2012 vintage looks like an excellent vintage. The 2012 Columbia Crest (sister company with CSM) H3 was very good and a can’t lose at $10.99. Nappa is too far for a weekend drive from Vancouver, BC, but Columbia Valley is not too shabby.

    Reply
    1. The Fermented Fruit Post author

      Ray,

      I completely agree. I can’t wait to visit the Columbia Valley myself.

      Funny you mention the Horse Heaven Hills ‘H3’ Cabernet as I actually have a bottle on my counter to review! I’m looking forward to seeing how a Washington wine can compete in that highly-competitive price bracket.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  3. Pingback: Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet | Costco Wine Review - The Fermented Fruit

  4. John

    Can you give me any feedback on the Northstar 2012 Merlot? I heard it won a blind taste test versus several other very, very expensive Bordeaux wines. I mean VERY expensive!! It also beat out an exceptional Napa merlot. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Fermented Fruit Post author

      John,

      I haven’t seen the 2012 out in my area yet – but will keep an eye out for it. That it potentially outclassed several acclaimed, pricier bottles doesn’t surprise me at all. Do you have a link to that article by chance? I’d be interested in checking it out.

      Cheers!

      Reply
  5. Art

    Year after year Northstar makes some of the best Merlots! They have substance, and a wonderful herbal quality to them. I tell people all of the time that a Merlot can be every bit as good as a cab provided it’s done right. Northstar does Merlot right!

    Reply
  6. Whitney

    Great article.

    I was given a bottle as a gift. A Cabernet lover’s Merlot was the perfect tagline. I am usually hesitant with Merlot. This is lush and delectable. Plus I am a sucker for black cherry. Superb. Will be stashing a few bottles of this for a later date.

    Reply
  7. Pingback: Guide to Costco Wine Prices and Top Recommended Wines

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