Tuna and Merlot? Yes! #MerlotMe

#MerlotMe and #WinePW Collaboration Continues
Thanks to the generosity of the #MerlotMe participating wineries, each of the 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 one.

Yes, Virginia, Red Wine with Fish
In my travels through Italian wines this year, I’ve found that Italians don’t shy away from pairing red wine with seafood. A couple of things help:

  • Pick a red with medium body & good acidity
  • Big seagoing fish are easiest to match
  • Tomatoes in the preparation provide a great bridge.
Seared tuna comes to life with Merlot with the right sauce.

Seared tuna and the right sauce come to life with Merlot.

For pairing #2, I chose seared tuna to test out with one of my Merlot’s. Along with the grilled fish, I made a sauce with plenty of deep rich flavors including tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and olives. I had not had heard of Tinhorn Creek, and was only vaguely familiar with Okanagan Valley, so this one was a bit of a shot in the dark. Lucky me, the wine was a great choice!

Tinhorn text

Surprise! Cool climate Merlot.

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series Merlot 2012 ($26.50 retail, sample provided by winery)
Eye: Clear, deep but still transparent red. Edge tends toward cool, but not purple.
Nose: Ripe dark cherries, olives, fresh impression.
Mouth: Bright red fruit, med + tannins.  Nice structure on this wine! Medium body with nice fruit, not overly ripe and not overly dark. Surprising, given it is listed at 14.9% alc. This wine is a good example of why you can’t always guess a wine’s body by the alcohol percentage on the label.
Day 1, I thought the wine was on the ripe side and the oak was a bit obvious, however, it just needed to sit for a day.  Day 2, the oak had receded to the background and the lean side of the wine shone. Our dinner was on day 2, so we enjoyed the wine at its peak.

Merlot and seared tuna? yes!

Seared tuna and Merlot? yes!

Tuna and Merlot – Yes or No?
Tuna is plenty big and meaty enough to pair with red wine.  Not every red wine, but Merlot can do the trick.  Find a Merlot like this Tinhorn Creek and you’re all set. Cooler climate (for Merlot), bright red fruit and good acidity are key.

Thanks to the #MerlotMe wineries and especially Tinhorn Creek for providing winery samples.  All opinions are my own.

Seared Tuna with a Savory Tomato Onion Sauce

Sauce adapted from a recipe in Sunset Magazine

A lighter, cool-climate Merlot is best with this dish.  You want the brighter flavors and higher acidity.  The tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and black olives give plenty of deep, rich flavor to bridge to the red wine.


  • 24 oz. of ahi tuna steaks, cut into 6 oz. individual servings
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 onion
  • 14 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
  • 4 oz. of Merlot
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp capers, rinsed (I like salt packed capers)
  • 1/3 cup pitted black olives, halved
  • 1 Tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
  • Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • Dry the tuna steaks, salt and pepper both sides.
  • Cut the first 1/2″ off the top and root of the onion. Then, cut the onion in half lengthwise and peel off the outer layer of skin. Then, cut the onion into quarters, again for final lengthwise cuts.  Note, this is different from the usual 1st cut.  You want to end up long slivers of onion. Continue cutting the onion lengthwise, till you have a pile of long, slender onion slivers.
  • Start a grill, preparing for high direct heat.
  • In the kitchen, add the EVOO to a skillet heated to medium, then sauté the onions until golden, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the remaining ingredients to the sauce, stirring to mix well.  Let the mixture come to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.
  • Grill the tuna to your preferred doneness.  On my gas grill, 3 minutes per side yields medium rare.
  • Serve the tuna with the sauce, perfect with a lighter, cool-climate Merlot.  The sauce tastes great on fresh ciabatta, too!

tinhorn_merlot_tuna_winepw 20151008 36

4 Responses to “Tuna and Merlot? Yes! #MerlotMe”
  1. The Tinhorn Creek was my favorites of the wines I rec’d. Definitely the most food friendly in my book because of its higher acidity. I can see it with tuna. I know it worked well with salmon I had..

  2. Nancy says:

    Num! I’m going to have to try raft recipe

  3. lindaravello says:

    This looks sublime – I so wish I could buy foreign wines more readily here – I just might have to take a trip to California……

  4. Great pairing! I felt the same about the Tinhorn Creek. Cheers.

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