I love it when a winery makes a merlot that truly lets the fruit shine. The 2012 Leese-Fitch Merlot ($13.50) has just a touch of vanilla (from the oak) but is dominated by cherry, red-berry and plum flavors, with some nice spice and nut notes and a sturdy texture. (There's a bit of cabernet sauvignon in there.) The acidity and tannins are spot-on, the finish complex but refreshing. Love the name, too, which comes from a gorgeous 1836 building in Sonoma named for Jacob Leese and Henry Fitch, brothers-in-law to the town's founder, Gen. Mariano Vallejo. Try this with winter squash and root veggies, a juicy cheeseburger or most any kind of pizza.
Available at First Grand, Skyway Wines, Richfield Muni and MGM Plymouth.