1997 Monterra Merlot. Monterey County ($10).
This extraordinary value is the jewel of a stunning line of budget-priced wines from the Delicato Monterey winery, which expects to be doing a big rollout of its Monterra line this summer. It's a huge, ripe merlot with forceful black cherry and chocolate flavor. Behind the chunkiness is an impressive structure, suggesting a better-than-average potential for aging. Based on other tastings, it appears merlot's future in Monterey is as bright as anywhere in California. Keep an eye out for Monterra's impressive 1997 cabernet sauvignon, syrah and sangiovese as well. The winery also has released a very fine 1998 chardonnay.