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Ready Reds

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LOOKING for a ready-to-drink merlot for tonight's dinner? The following Sonoma County bottlings, (rated on a scale of one to four corks, with one being average and four sublime) won't disappoint.

Ferrari-Carano 1995, Sonoma County A deep core of blackberry, cassis, and cedar with a hint of dill in a nicely balanced, flavorful wine. 4 corks.

Louis M. Martini 1994 Reserve, Russian River Valley A massively structured, very fruit-forward wine complemented by creamy oak nuances and a long cherry/berry finish. 3.5 corks.

Louis M. Martini (1995) 25th Anniversary, Russian River Valley Made from 100 percent Russian River Valley merlot, with the grapes selected from the best lots of the vineyard. It was aged in a combination of French, American, and Hungarian oak for a total of 22 months. Still tight and tannic, with time this wine opens up in the glass to a big, chewy mouthful with good structure, which bodes well for short- to mid-term aging. Tasty black fruit flavors dominate, but a few years are needed before the "mellow" tag can be applied. 3.5 corks.

Windsor 1995 Signature Series, Sonoma Valley A lighter-bodied merlot with toasted oak, black olive, black cherry, geranium, and woodspice aromas and flavors. 3.5 corks.

Ravenswood 1994 Vintners Blend Cherry, vanilla, and plum aromas, with spicy berry flavors. Soft and easy-drinking, this is the perfect hamburger wine. A great value (under $10) and already in limited supply. 2.5 corks.

Canyon Road 1995, California A fragrant berry nose leads to a silky-smooth berry flavor with a touch of vanillin oak. A value-priced wine for everyday drinking from the sister winery of premium producer Geyser Peak. 2 corks.

Stone Creek 1995, California Black cherry, cedar, and plum aromas and flavors, complemented by subtle dusty oak. Another good value in a generally overpriced merlot market. 2 corks.

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From the June 18-24, 1998 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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