Merlot for Every Day of the Week #MerlotMe #WinePW

Duckhorn 3 Palms Merlot at the lake in a hammock

Serious Merlot research in progress

Annual Month-long Celebration of the Merlot Grape
Our Wine Pairing Weekend blogging group has collaborated with the #MerlotMe group of wineries for the last 4 years. This extended annual event gives us the opportunity to really dive into a variety of Merlot based wines. Even though our group name implies weekend time and a special recipe, a person needs to eat on a Tuesday night as well, and it better be easy and quick! So this year, I’m presenting a few pairings we’ve enjoyed with this year’s Merlots so far, with links to a brief post including wine tasting notes and a recipe (if needed). Stay tuned, I haven’t worked my way through all the wines yet!

Disclosure: Our Wine Pairing Weekend blogging group received a variety of wine samples from the #MerlotMe wineries for our October posts. No other payments were involved and all opinions expressed in my blog posts are my own.

Some Very General Conclusions
This years’ #MerlotMe sponsors hail from California and Washington, so I’ve had ample opportunity to compare and contrast over the last couple weeks. Of course, there will be many exceptions to my findings, but here is what I take away from my recent tastings:

  • California is a warm, sunny place and it shows in the Merlot. My California examples were a bit more lush, more full of ripe fruit, and their acidity was buffered a bit more. If I want to reach for a hammock, fireplace, or cocktail wine (without food), I’ll lean toward California.
  • Washington is further north. The overall growing season is shorter, compensated by longer mid-summer days. Hot days, yes, but cool nights east of the Cascade mountains where the Merlot is grown. Washington Merlot impresses me as just a bit leaner and less plush. The acidity is a bit more noticeable. I would reach for a Washington Merlot for the dinner table with typical grilled and roasted meats.
  • Merlot is more versatile as a food pairing partner than just red meat! Shrimp served with mushroom risotto is bursting with umami flavors and a red wine feels right at home. As long as you don’t go crazy with the level of heat, spicy foods can pair very nicely with a lush, fruit driven Merlot. We tried several examples and the ripe fruit in the wine balanced moderate jalapeno, serrano and red peppers just fine.

Merlot on Meatless Monday

Dinner this Monday was Beans and Greens Quesadillas, a super-healthy meatless entree. I did add some freshly grated cheddar cheese because what’s a quesadilla without cheese?  Just a dilla I guess! The flavors were robust and the salsa was the source of jalapeno bite, so a more structured wine would be out of place. A Merlot with nice ripe fruit and tame tannins was a nice wine at table. Maybe not typical, but nice! Link to my tasting notes on the Northstar Columbia Valley Merlot here (sample, $41 SRP or online here)

Merlot and Takeout (Tuesday night)

Decoy Merlot with chicken, potatoes and superfood salad

Takeout deserves a nice wine, no?

Wednesday evenings are Triathlon swim lessons, so there’s no time to cook. We stopped at the grocery store deli for some chicken thighs, mashed potatoes and “superfood” salad.  I say takeout deserves a nice wine, don’t you think?  Link to my tasting notes on the Decoy Sonoma County Merlot here (sample, $25 SRP or online here)

Hamburgers and Merlot (Thursday night)

L'Ecole 41 Columbia Valley and Walla Walla Valley Merlots paired with hamburger

Whether you like your burgers smothered in cheese, bacon and the kitchen sink or simply topped, Merlot will pair beautifully.

We keep burgers ready to go in the freezer for nights when we want to make something but it needs to be quick.  Our burgers are from our friends at Sunshine Harvest Farms. The cattle are pastured raised, so I don’t want to hide the flavor of the meat; I keep the toppings simple. Oven fries are quick and relatively healthy, as is a side salad or cole slaw. Merlot is one of my favorite wines to serve with hamburgers. The generous fruit and moderate tannins are easy and relaxed, just like the whole meal. L’Ecole 41 Columbia Valley and Walla Walla Valley Merlots were fun to taste together. The Columbia Valley wine, especially, is widely available. Link to my tasting notes on the L’Ecole no.41 Columbia Valley Merlot here (sample, $24 SRP or online here)

Red Wine Risotto, Shrimp and Merlot (Friday is risotto night)

An easy and relaxing meal to prepare, Friday night is often risotto night at our house. My recipe and tasting notes on the Materra Wines Right Bank Merlot are here (sample, $50 SRP or online here)

Korean Inspired Chicken and Merlot (Saturday night)

Sweatshirts are appropriate attire for romantic dinners for two at the cabin.

Just after our MerlotMe wines arrived we went up to the cabin for an early October weekend away. Plenty of time to cook, and appropriate dress included sweatshirts, sweatpants and slippers. Julie made a romantic dinner for two, so we opened the Duckhorn Three Palms Vineyard Merlot to pair with our Seoul-ful Chicken dinner. As a Korean inspired recipe, you know there will be some hot peppery spice in there somewhere. The cucumber salad was quite spicy, but the lush fruit in the wine didn’t seem to mind. Luckily, there was some wine left for dinner as I had opened the bottle in the afternoon for an early fall stretch in the hammock… A link to the recipe and tasting notes on the Duckhorn 3 Palms Vineyard Merlot are here (sample, $98 SRP or online here)

Spicy Beef Wraps and Merlot (Sunday night)

Charles Krug came through once again in a Merlot with spicy “Honey-Garlic Beef Lettuce Wraps. As long as you don’t overdo it with the serrano peppers, Merlot provides a perfect foil to the sweet-savory beef wraps. Lower tannins don’t clash with the spices, and the beef – Merlot pairing is delicious.  This was the overall best pairing of the bunch and a highly recommended meal to make at home for a fun dinner! A link to the recipe and tasting notes on the Charles Krug Napa Valley Merlot are here (sample, $25 SRP or online here)

Wine Pairing Weekend Team Merlot Inspirations
Our Wine Pairing Weekend group loves to find creative, new pairings of wines with food. Take a look at all these great ideas when they go live on Friday and Saturday this week. Join our chat on Saturday October 13, where we’ll be spilling the beans on our Merlot favorites. Just look for the hashtags #MerlotMe and #WinePW on Twitter at 10am CDT (11am EDT, 8am PDT).

And as an extra-added, no additional cost to you, here’s a video post from Nick Goldschmidt, winemaker at Goldschmidt Vineyards in Napa Valley!

Finally, join us in November with our theme “Together We Rise: Wines from Fire Struck Regions in California, Spain, Portugal” Gwen from Wine Predator will host. See you then!

We didn’t quite make it through all our fabulous Merlots, stand by for a few more posts later in the month!





27 Responses to “Merlot for Every Day of the Week #MerlotMe #WinePW”
  1. Sorry I missed this week at your house! Everything looks great. Love seeing your beautiful wife smiling with her Merlot as well.

  2. Looks like you had a fabulous week Jeff! It would have been interesting to taste WA and CA Merlot side by side.

  3. A Merlot for every night of the week, what more could you ask for! I guess I need to try Merlot paired with just a hint of spice (as in heat). Thanks for hosting!!

  4. crynning says:

    Pictures of you in a hammock, a lake, bottles upon bottles of Merlot, delicious food, and your adorable wife just make me happy!! Thanks for hosting such a wonderful #MerlotMe experience, Jeff. Cheers!

  5. Great idea to take it day by day with your #MerlotMe post! Nice way to show the versatility of Merlot. Thanks for hosting and organizing!

  6. I think I need to pair my next merlot with a hammock and a view of the water! Looks like a fabulous #MerlotMe at your house!

  7. First, I love how you do research! Secondly, the quesadillas for Meatless Monday are brilliant with Merlot! I will definitely be stealing that idea!

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