#MerlotMe Confession with Duckhorn and Pork Chops #WinePW

Wine Pairing Weekend and #MerlotMe
Welcome to our October edition of our Wine Pairing Weekend group!  This month, we teamed up with the big #MerlotMe celebration, and we’re all featuring dishes we have paired with Merlot.

If you see this post soon enough, please feel free to join our chat on Twitter.  Simply look for the #WinePW hashtag on Twitter Saturday morning, October 10 from 10-11am CDT. Even if you miss our Saturday chat, check out our hashtag as most of us will share multiple posts during October.

No longer summer in Minnesota, time for some red wine!

No longer summer in Minnesota, time for some red wine!

My Merlot Confession
The way I think of it, I have an Old World palette; my friends probably would say it differently. They cringe when they come to our house, expecting me to open some barny, earthy, lean red wine.  So you see, I have an American wine problem. In addition, I unconsciously have a special ignorance for Merlot. Unfortunately, this means I miss a lot of beautiful wines produced here in the US, and I struggle to find wines that friends and I can both enjoy.

When the MerlotMe group of wineries approached our Wine Pairing Weekend group, I was a little nervous; what if I didn’t care for the wines?  I figured if nothing else, I could fairly evaluate the wines as appropriate for a more typical American palate.  To my surprise, I needn’t have worried!


So, not every Napa Valley wine is all about excess. A lovely wine.

Wine Pairing with Merlot
The first thing that comes to mind for food to enjoy with Merlot is a nice steak, roast, stew, or braise of beef.  Beef would be easy, but how about something else? How about pork chops?

merlotme_pork_chop_duckhorn 20151002 79

Often the sauce or treatment of the main dish provides the perfect bridge to the wine.

The Duckhorn Napa Valley Merlot was the first sample to arrive. Here’s the info from the Duckhorn website:

“Varietal Content 88% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc, 1% Malbec Cooperage 100% French Oak Château-style Barrels (60 Gallons) Barrel Aging: 16 Months Age of Barrels: 25% new, 75% second vintage

Winemaker Notes
With its temperate weather and lengthy hang time, the 2012 growing season was ideal for our style of Merlot, yielding a wine that combines exceptional structure and depth with velvety tannins and alluring fruit. From its aromas of Santa Rosa plum, crème de cassis, violet and Herbes de Provence to its enticing flavors of olallieberry, sticky toffee and vanilla bean, this is a complex and compelling expression of Napa Valley Merlot.”
Beautiful restraint!

Beautiful restraint!

Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot 2012 ($54 retail, sample provided by winery)
Eye: Clear, opaque center fading to a purple rim.
Nose: Bright blue fruit, very clean on the nose. Just a touch of depth from oak influence, but barely noticeable.
Mouth: Medium body, medium tannins, not rough. Nice blue fruit, lean, very nice. Sorry, I don’t know what an olallieberry is.

I was very impressed with the Duckhorn Merlot as a wine I could serve to friends without their wondering about my sanity. No one would mistake it for an Old World wine (fine, because it is from California!), but it also avoids the excessive fruit and oak that still seem to pervade many of the choices on store shelves. Bravo!

The deep fruit and earthy flavors in the sauce begged for a red wine at the table.

The deep fruit and earthy flavors in the sauce begged for a red wine at the table.

Wine Pairing Merlot with Pork
If the pork chop is unadorned, I would often pick a fuller bodied white over a red wine as the better pairing.  The addition of the deep flavors of the wine based sauce with both red fruit and earthy mushrooms definitively shifts the balance to a red wine.  While deeply flavored, the dish isn’t particularly fatty, so the more toned-down tannins of the Merlot seem just right.  All in all, this was a wonderful combination.

#WinePW Bloggers and #MerlotMe
Take a look at all the great suggestions for your next dinner over a bottle of Merlot.  Our group had a great time working out a variety of options, I hope you’ll give some of them a try.

merlotme_pork_chop_duckhorn 20151002 74

Pork Chops with Cherry Mushroom Merlot Sauce

Adapted from a recipe in Cook’s Illustrated Best Light Recipe.merlotme_pork_chop_duckhorn 20151002 69

Note: This dish comes together very quickly at the end, so have all your ingredients prepped beforehand – mise en place!

Serve with pearled barley and sauteed broccolini


  • 4 center cut pork chops, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), divided
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 4 oz. thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms
  • 4 oz. Merlot wine – use wine you would drink, no “cooking wine” allowed!
  • 12 oz. chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 2 Tbsp whole milk
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • If you are serving this with a whole grain like barley, make sure you start the grain first.  It’s often 40 minutes before it’s ready.
  • Sauté the mushrooms in a cast iron skillet in 1 Tbsp of EVOO over medium heat, about 1o minutes. Set aside.
  • Add 1 Tbsp EVOO to the skillet, increase the heat to medium high, just until the oil begins to smoke.  Add the pork chops and let them cook untouched for about 4 minutes.  The pork chops should be nicely browned. Turn the pork chops and cook until just pink in the middle, 5 – 10 minutes. Set aside, covered, to rest and keep warm.
  • Add the shallots to the skillet allow them to carmelize, just 2-3 minutes.
  • Deglaze the pan with the 4 oz. of Merlot, then add the chicken broth and the cherries.
  • Mix the cornstarch into the milk with a fork, then add to the liquid in the pan, stirring immediately to mix well.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and allow to reduce and thicken, about 5 minutes.
  • Toward the end of the sauce thickening, add the mushrooms.
  • Add the rosemary, check the sauce and correct with salt and pepper to your taste.
  • Serve each pork chop with a generous spoonful of the sauce and enjoy with your favorite Merlot!

Local Sources:

Disclosure – Wine was provided as a sample, all opinions are my own

Note: Watch for more Merlot-heavy posts in October! (click on any photo to see full size slideshow)

17 Responses to “#MerlotMe Confession with Duckhorn and Pork Chops #WinePW”
  1. Cooking Chat says:

    Looks like you did a good job keeping an open mind to the American Merlots! I can see where the mushroom sauce would really make the match. My pork chops were a bit more plain and didn’t pair quite as well. Oh yes, make that two of us unfamiliar with the olallieberry!

  2. Thanks so much for organizing. This was great theme.

  3. Thanks again for hosting this #MerlotMe event and giving us all the opportunity to get to know this varietal better.

  4. I’m an old school person as well so it was nice to be able to open my palette up to some of the new world wines. I love the cherry merlot sauce with the pork. I have to try it!

  5. Since I have a very American palate, I think I must find the NorthStar. And the Tinhorn has peeked my curiosity, I’ll have to see if we have it anywhere near us. We loved he Duckhorn and have yet to try the Decoy

  6. Your dish looks delicious. Looking forward to reading your thoughts on Tinhorn Creek!

  7. errely says:

    I love pork chops with cherry sauce – And merlot is such a wonderful pairing!

  8. Your recipe (and photos) looks amazing! As I type this I’m waiting for some steel cut oats to cook up…but now I want pork chops for breakfast! Thanks for making this event happen adn coordinating. It was big fun and it has certainly brought Merlot back into focus for me…especially at the table!

  9. I love your comments about how the sauce acts as a bridge, so true! What a beautiful dish and pairing. Thanks for hosting this month!

  10. What a beautiful dish & pairing! I also have the old world palate & struggle with many CA wines that are a meal in a glass, the merlot reminded me that not all CA wines are alcoholic fruit bombs.
    Thanks for putting together such a fun theme!

  11. culinarycam says:

    Jeff, thank YOU so much for hosting this #winePW event, for lining up the sponsors, and for – really! – introducing me to Merlots in a beautiful way. I had previously thought them fruity and simple. Happy to be proven dead wrong.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] Jeff at foodwineclick with #MerlotMe Confession with Duckhorn and Pork Chops […]

  2. […] Jeff at foodwineclick with #MerlotMe Confession with Duckhorn and Pork Chops […]

  3. […] bloggers in our Wine Pairing Weekend group received several bottles of wine. My first pairing was Pork with Duckhorn Merlot from Napa Valley, a good choice although a pretty safe […]

  4. […] Jeff at foodwineclick with #MerlotMe Confession with Duckhorn and Pork Chops […]

  5. […] Jeff at foodwineclick with #MerlotMe Confession with Duckhorn and Pork Chops […]

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