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2005 Stella Maris Red Wine 

Columbia Valley, Wash. / $25 retail

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Washington's Columbia Valley is known for excellent Merlots, and this blend of 77 percent Merlot with 16 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 7 percent Syrah makes a statement with intense aromas and concentrated flavors. Aged in French and American oak, the medium-bodied wine offers toasty notes and aromas of vanilla, leather, red berries and hints of herbs and spice. On the palate flavors of cassis, cherry, plum, cocoa and a touch of earth lead to a smooth finish. Decant before serving. Drink it with chops, steaks, roast meats, venison, duck and hearty casseroles. Buy it at: Swirl Wines. Drink it at: Restaurant August, Herbsaint, Emeril's Delmonico, Broussard's, Cafe Degas, Mr. John's Steak House, Bouche Wine Bar and Bistro and Ruth's Chris Steakhouse.— Brenda Maitland

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