I really liked the '99 Duckhorn Paraduxx. ($45)
So did my wino friends. It's a "super-tuscan" style blend, predominately Zin/Cab. (60/35)
I think the remaining 5% is merlot.
A good, cheap merlot you may wanna try is the Estancia. Usually goes about $10 or so @ Sam's Club and scored a WS 87. Me and the wife enjoyed it. More Euro in style - less fruit and more earth and pencil-lead type flavors.