I’ve Got Merlot Mania! #MerlotMe #WinePW

I have a friend who positively hates Merlot. She invites me over and I say, “Great, I’ll bring a bottle of Merlot!” Or we go to a BYO restaurant and I always bring Merlot. She goes bonkers, and I start laughing.

One of the Greatest Grapes on the Planet!

But seriously! Merlot is one of the greatest grapes of all time! It’s the most widely grown grape in France and it’s the fourth most widely grown in the U.S. It’s one of the most versatile grapes in the world and it grows happily in lots of places, both Old and New World  from France and Italy to California, Washington State, Chile and South Africa. And just like a great handbag, it can go high and low, standing shoulder to shoulder with the greatest wines of Bordeaux or sipped from a plastic cup at a backyard burger bash or Friday night pizza party.

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#MerlotMe – What is it?

About four or five years ago, a handful of Napa Valley wineries decided to gang up and go big, telling the world how delicious Merlot can be with a campaign called #MerlotMe in the month of October.  So you might see special Merlot offerings at restaurants, Merlot displays at retail stores. And you’ll for sure see a shit ton of blog posts and other articles about Merlot because producers were generous with the samples and PR people are ON it!

I received six amazing bottles as part of the #MerlotMe campaign, from Napa Valley, Sonoma and Washington, including three Merlots from Duckhorn, including their Decoy label, Peju, Long Meadow Ranch and Nine Hats.

Decoy 2016 Sonoma County Merlot: Decoy is Duckhorn’s line of Sonoma wines and they are some of the most delicious values on your store shelf!  This is a glorious Merlot! It’s ripe and juicy with aromas of cherry and mocha that practically jump right out of the glass. One sip and I was smitten. $25

Duckhorn 2015 Napa Valley Merlot: This one was definitely a little more complex, with more varied fruit (cherry blueberry, plum) and hints of cedar, and spices like clove or cardamom. This is a more serious wine and I would even let it age another year or two in the cellar, or decant it for a few hours to let it open up to its full potential. $56

Duckhorn 2015 Three Palms Vineyard Merlot: Whoa, mama! When I opened the box from Duckhorn, I gasped at the generosity of this. Why, you ask? What’s the big deal? Here’s the big deal: Duckhorn 2014 Three Palms Merlot was the freaking #1 wine of the year, in Wine Spectator’s annual Top 100 Wines. It was #1. The best of the many thousands of wines tasted each year by the team at Spectator. So, sure this is a new vintage, but man, oh, man ….. I can’t wait to taste it. That’s right – I didn’t taste it yet, because I’m waiting to savor it with the perfect food … something like boeuf bourguignon or brisket or a ribeye steak when I get home from this magilla of a trip I’m on in the Pacific Northwest. $98.

fullsizeoutput_c45Nine Hats 2014 Columbia Valley MerlotI had not heard of Nine Hats before, so was excited to open this bottle and I LOVED it! It was fresh and fruity, rooty, tooty delicious! Nine Hats started in 2007 and came out of a collective of winemakers in Washington (Columbia Valley) that includes some top, top talent, such as Gilles Nicault, who lives in Walla Walla, WA and oversee all the winemaking there. Look for this one – it’s really delicious and a killer value at $25.

fullsizeoutput_c43On the Long Shadows website, I also saw Pedestal Merlot – which is another wine in the Long Shadows Collection, that a friend brought to a dinner I was at a few weeks ago (it was delicious – deep, dark and juicy).

Peju 2014 Napa Valley Merlot: I was excited when this one landed at my doorstep, because I used to drive past Peju all the time on Silverado Trail and always wanted to stop in and taste. But alas, I was always on my way to another meeting or event (blast!), so I was happy that Peju came to me! The winery was started when Tony and Herta Peju bought 30 acres of vines in the Rutherford AVA of Napa Valley in 1983. Since then, they’re meticulously tended their vineyards and crafted high-quality wines in fairly small amounts. The aroma was like a farmer’s market in a bottle – all the berries, currant, cassis, a little spice (anise?). One sip was all it took to make me close my eyes and swoon a little. It’s complex and provocative. Makes you think about all the work it took to grow the grapes and make a wine of this quality. Well-done, Peju! $42

Long Meadow Ranch  2014 Napa Valley Merlot: Well, I can’t lie, I didn’t get to taste this one yet (I’m busy, people!) but Long Meadow Ranch is a cool company. The Hall family of Napa is behind it and not only do they own vineyards and a winery, but also one of my favorite restaurants in all of Napa Valley, Farmstead, in St. Helena. On top of that, they own other properties where they farm organic produce and livestock – it’s a whole vertically integrated food company base don sustainability and social responsibility. The wines I’ve had some Long Meadow in the past have always been great. $35

Food Pairing Ideas

fullsizeoutput_6e4Aside from the usual suspects that Merlot likes to hang out with — braised or grilled meats, including sausages of almost any type, burgers, pizza with red sauce and fennel sausage and cheeses like Comté, Parmesan, I thought of one dish I’ve made that is surprisingly great with Merlot: The cauliflower steak. Uh huh. You read that right.

It rests on a bed of tangy roasted-tomato sauce and the topping of meaty, umami-blasting black olives and sun-dried tomatoes welcomes the fruit and savory notes of Merlot. I got this recipe from Bon Appetit and it is a delicious vegetarian option for Merlot.

And if you want to see my partner Rob from Odd Bacchus and I try to Name That Wine between two of the Duckhorn Merlots, here’s our latest episode dedicated to MERLOT!

 

So, join the #MerlotMe movement and go get yourself some delicious Merlot. (I’m lookin’ at you, Sue!)  And check out these other blog posts from the Wine Pairing Weekend #WinePW crew. We’ll light up Twitter with #MerlotMe Mania on Saturday morning, Oct. 13 at 10 a.m. CST – come join us!  Use #WinePW and #MerlotMe. Cheers!

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