Saturday, October 8, 2016

#MerlotMe with Sausage Baked Rigatoni

October is a big celebratory month for myself with my birthday and anniversary included, as well as one of my favorite holidays (Halloween). In the wine world it's also #MerlotMe month where wine consumers around the world are sharing in the festivities of this international grape that has been building back up it's reputation after its decline from the movie Sideways that debuted in 2004. If you're not familiar with the movie, Miles, the main character, was going out to dinner with his friend Jack and stated “If anyone orders Merlot I'm leaving. I am NOT drinking any (expletive) merlot!” It's amazing how something like a joke in a movie can change consumer's perception of a grape. I've always enjoyed merlot, but I must say I'm pretty picky in the style of which it is produced.

Merlot Around the World
Merlot is an international grape that is either produced as a single varietal or can be found as a blending grape. It's a star on the right bank in Bordeaux, France as well as California and Washington state. Merlot provides soft characters, rounding out a wine with fruit forward notes of blackberry and raspberry notes. In Italy this grape is often overlooked as Italy has hundreds of its own indigenous grapes so not many are thinking of merlot when considering Italian wines, but it has a presence as a blending grape and also as a single varietal within Italy. It's mostly known as a blending grape in the Super Tuscan wines of Tuscany, but you can also find it as a single varietal in the northeastern part of Italy including the Trentino-Alto Adige region, Friuli and other regions. It's style is dictated by where it's grown and whether or not oak plays a factor in it's production.

Merlot Pairings
Last year I prepared my 4 merlot wines with my highlighted dish of Polenta and Sausage. This year I received a sample of the 2013 Duckhorn Merlot, which so happened to be my top choice last year only in the 2012 vintage. So, needless to say, that is what I paired with this years selection of baked rigatoni with sausage. The sausage, a Sweet Italian Style Chicken Sausage with red and green peppers from Trader Joes, was the perfect addition to the dish and a great accompaniment to the merlot. The ripe, rich fruit of the merlot was a nice balance to the acidity of the sauce in the dish.  The 2013 Duckhorn Merlot was full of ripe black raspberries and savory notes of baking spices. It's a well structured wine with firm tannins and a beautiful lasting finish.
2013 Duckhorn Merlot Napa Valleymerlot pairings sausage baked rigatoni with duckhorn merlot

The rest of our Wine Pairing group (#WinePW) has plenty more amazing pairings with merlot so don't miss out! If you're catching us in time, join us live on twitter #winepw Saturday October 8th @ 11am EST. All are welcome!

Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Merlot Shows Its Versatility and Goes +1 With Cheese, Meat, and Chocolate”
Amy from Cooking with Amy shares “Mushroom Parmigiano Pasta Recipe”
David from Cooking Chat shares “Garlic Thyme Tuna Paired with a Merlot”
Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “#MerlotMe Trifecta for #WinePW”
Michelle from Rockin Red Blog shares  “Welcoming Fall with #MerlotMe and #WinePW”
Sarah from Curious Cuisiniere shares “Exploring Merlot Wine Pairing with Bolognese Sauce”
Lori from Dracaena Wines shares “Hello, Can you #MerlotMe?”
Jill from L’Occasion shares “Evenings with Merlot
Lauren from The Swirling Dervish shares “Mercy Monday and Merlot”
Gwen from Wine Predator shares #MerlotMe with savory squash soup and sandwiches
Jade from Tasting Pour shares “Chipotle Chicken Stew and Merlot”
Cindy from Grape Experiences shares “Wine and Dine: Merlot with Eggplant and Polenta Parmigiana”
Jeff from FoodWineClick! shares “A Love Affair for Merlot and the Grill”

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