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Babcock 2008 Merlot "Under the Radar" Santa Barbara County 

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I thoroughly enjoyed this tasty Merlot, which has 2 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s grown at Estelle Vineyard in Santa Ynez Valley, which winemaker Brian Babcock said is their source for premium Bordeaux varieties. While it didn’t make the cut for his reserve wines, it’s a very good value for the quality. Deeply colored and fruit forward, it has aromas and flavors of blackberries, boysenberries, cranberries, and spice. It was aged in neutral oak barrels to maintain its friendly fruit flavors, with minimal tannins. Way too drinkable alone, it’s also a good choice for a steak, cheeseburger, or pizza. It’s only $14 retail at the tasting room, online at babcockwinery.com, or at Woodstone Deli in Avila Beach.

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