Friday, October 11, 2019

Merlot Pairings for #MerlotMe Month

It's been a whirlwind start to October.  October holds a number of reasons to celebrate for me.  For personal reasons it's my birthday, wedding anniversary and one of my favorite holidays.  On the flip side it’s Italian Heritage Month and #MerlotMe month.  This year I was completely honored with the samples that I received from participating wineries.  This meant lots of sampling and brainstorming for pairings to go with each.  On top of it all I leave Sunday for my 10th trip back to Italy for a press trip to the island of Sicily.  Happy Birthday to me! 

So what is #MerlotMe month?  October is International Merlot Month and the hashtag #MerlotMe was created to spread love across the wine world for this beloved grape.  #MerlotMe is celebrating it’s 7th year since it was started and our Wine Pairing Weekend group has teamed up to provide a wide variety of samples pairings to go with merlot.  Let’s get started! 

Thirteen bottles later I wondered what was the best way to tackle this.  To say the least lots of cooking, crazy kids running around the kitchen and lots of wine pouring.  It was a feast of merlot!  I paired up 2-4 bottles per dish and although they really all were great in their own way I had my favs of each night.  There was no method to the wine pairing selection as many of these wines were new to me.   

2018 Rutherford Hill Rose of MerlotAs a sipper to get things started I began with the 2018 Rutherford Hill Merlot Rosé.  Rutherford Hill is located in Napa Valley and is part of the Terlato Family Winery.  Although we’re in the heart of fall here in New England it doesn’t mean that we need to stop drinking rosé.  This was a dry rose’, refreshing, very smooth on the palette with lots of peach and some citrus.  A slight tingle of acidity on the finish leaving a nice crisp lingering flavor.  ABV 13.5% SRP $34 

Merlot Pairing #1 ~ Pulled Pork 
I’m not ashamed to admit that being short on time this past week called for a slow cooker night.  Having participated in a number of these #MerlotMe events I felt pork was the way to go with a couple of my dishes this year.  Going lighter on the sauce with the pulled pork allowed these wines to shine.  With lots of vegetables from our CSA farmshare I was able to prepare some zucchini with a couple of my dishes as I’m trying to encourage my little ones to eat them.  #failure 
2015 Rutherford hill merlot pairingMerlot food and wine pairing

Slow cooker pulled pork with merlot
  • 2015 Rutherford Hill Merlot – This merlot is blended with cabernet sauvignon and syrah.  Ripe black cherries on the nose.  Medium-bodied with moderate tannin and beautiful cherries and plums on the palette with some vanilla.  A well-balanced wine.  ABV 14.5% SRP $34   
  • 2017 J. Lohr Los Osos Merlot – This wine comes from Paso Robles made of 82% merlot, 16% malbec and 2% cabernet sauvignon.  Aromas of cherry and blackberries.  I enjoyed the fruit on this one.  Medium-bodied and balanced displaying violet, blackberries with a touch of tannin and oak on the finish. ABV 14% SRP $15 
  • 2017 Decoy Merlot – Decoy falls under the Duckhorn Vineyards brand and this Sonoma County wine comes from quality that can be enjoyed in its youth.  Made of 96% merlot with 4% cabernet sauvignon aged in 100% french oak.  Lots of licorice and herbal notes on the nose.  An interesting palette, almost a cherry cough syrup taste.  Not what I’ve experienced in the past with this brand.  ABV 14% SPR $25  
  • 2016 Seven Hills Winery Merlot – Coming from the Walla Walla Valley of Washington. The nose was initially lighter making it tricky to decipher some of the aromas, but with time opened up to green pepper, raspberry notes.   Bright fruit, plums, currants and blackberry with nice acidity and spice.  A nice silkiness with some tannin and oak showing up on the finish.  I actually didn’t taste this one with the pulled pork as it came in too late, but I wish I had a chance to pair it with a dish.  ABV 14.% SRP $25 

Merlot Pairing #2 ~ Classic Meatloaf 
Nothing says home cooked meals like some comfort food.  What I love about meatloaf is that you can always play with the way its prepared with adding ingredients or how it is dressed on the top. Nothing far outside the norm on this dish, but I loved how these 2 choices went so well with it. 
Meatloaf pairing with Merlot
  • 2017 Bonterra Merlot – It's been years since I’ve had a Bonterra unfortunately and won’t be the last.  Made from organic grapes and a SRP of $16 this was definitely a favorite of mine in the lineup.  With a small blend of petite syrah and malbec added the wine was aged 1 year in French and American oak.  With aromas of plums and blackberries on the palette this wine was rich in dark fruit with toasty, vanilla and spice nuances.  ABV 14% 
  • 2016 L’Ecole Walla Walla Valley Merlot – I enjoyed both of the merlot wines from L’Ecole in  Washington state.  This wine hails from 2 of L’ecole’s prime vineyards, Ferguson and Seven Hills Vineyard.  A dense wine rich in dark fruits and tobacco notes with a solid backbone of acidity.  ABV 14.5% SRP $37 
Merlot Pairing #3 ~ Boneless Pork Chop with a Fig Sauce and Risotto 
I love when a dish comes out like I was hoping and this was my favorite pairing of all.  The fig sauce stole the show and combined with the pork and these wonderful merlot selections it was a win wine all around.  Although it was a close call on my favorite pairing of the three the Duckhorn inched out to lead the pack.   
Merlot pairing with boneless pork chop with fig sauce risotto
  • 2016 Seavey Vineyard Merlot – This merlot from Seavey Vineyard in Napa Valley is blended with 5% cabernet sauvignon and aged 100% in french oak.  Lots of layers to this full-bodied wine.  Aromas of blackberries and blueberries.  Silky and round on the palette with a hint of green bell pepper.  ABV 14.% SRP $65 
  • 2016 Duckhorn Merlot – Duckhorn is a wine I’ve tried over the last few years and always seems to impress.  Duckhorn Vineyards is located in Napa Valley and this wine is a blend of grapes from their own estate as well as select independent growers.  Plums, raspberries with toasty notes a rather full-bodied wine with elegance.  ABV 14.5% SRP $56 
  • 2015 Markham Vineyards Merlot – Another winery I’m familiar with in prior years and I was a big fan of the red fruit aromas in the glass on this one.  A wine with structure displaying black cherry and ripe raspberries, vanilla, tobacco, cedar notes and moderate tannins.  ABV 14.5% SRP $55 

Merlot Pairing #4 ~ Turkey Burger topped with swiss cheese and sauteed portobello mushrooms 
I wish I paired this dish with angus burgers instead of the turkey burgers as they turkey lends a certain taste to the dish and I feel the other flavors would have paired better.  The portobello mushrooms were a must though as this always seems to be a natural pairing with merlot.   
Swiss Turkey Burger with Sauteed mushroom merlot pairing
  • 2018 Casillero del Diablo Merlot Riserva  - This was the only wine I tasted out of country coming from The Central Valley appellation in Chile.  It was noticeable the difference in taste where the other wines were more fruit forward.  Medium in body displaying blackberries, currants, raspberries and spice with vanilla and oak showing on the finish.  ABV 13.5% SRP $12 
  • 2016 L’Ecole Merlot - This other merlot from L’Ecole comes from the Columbia Valley, the largest in eastern Washington state.   A blend of 78% merlot, 16% cabernet franc, 3% petit verdot and 3% malbec. Aged for over 18 months in small oak barrels.   In comparison to the L’Ecole Merlot from the Walla Walla Valley I found this wine to shower brighter red fruits.  Nice acidity and well balanced.  Both beautiful wines and this one only priced at $25.  ABV 14.5% 
  • 2014 Northstar Merlot - A second time for me featuring this wine in a different vintage.  Also coming from the Columbia Valley of Washington state.  Made of 76% merlot and 24% cabernet sauvignon.  More towards fuller bodied lending on the side of dark fruits including lush black cherries and plums with some herbal notes and spice.  ABV 14.5% SRP $41 

Plenty of merlot food and wine pairings with my fellow food and winelovers below.  Join us live on Twitter this Saturday 11am EST with #WinePW and enjoy some Merlot throughout the month of October.  I can't wait to hear some of your favorites!


*All wines were provided as samples, but opinions are strictly my own.


  1. So. Many. Merlots! It was a wine-full month, wasn't it?! I still have some to write about. Next time I'll have to do more than one bottle per dinner. Great idea.

  2. Wow, what great pairings. I'm especially intrigued by the turkey burger. Great idea.

  3. That Pork Chop with the fig sauce sounds amazing Jen! You've reminded me I haven't had meatloaf in years. It's definitely a classic Merlot. I likewise rec'd the Seven Hills late. Might be time for meatloaf and Merlot

  4. I agree-pulled pork is an unbelievable pairing with a luscious Merlot! I'm on it!! Safe travels to Italy, by the way!

  5. Looked like you did some good experimenting! Pulled pork caught my eye, too!

  6. Hey there! There is so much great information in this post.

    And happy birthday, I'm a October girl too. A great month for fun trips to pumpkin patches and hayrides. Enjoy!

  7. Wow, what an extravagant Merlot Me celebration! And happy birthday!

  8. Beautiful pairings! I have to say, #merlotme month is an embarrassment of riches!

  9. 13!! wow! lucky number for you! So much Merlot! Great meals to pair with them also. Happy birthday and anniversary! Our anniversary is the 7th. We love October

  10. Wow, what an amazing feast of food and Merlot! 13 varieties of the same grape, but they each show their own character.