Friday, October 8, 2021

Merlot with Chicken in a Mushroom Wine Sauce

October ever year is a nationwide feature on the Merlot grape for the event sponsored #MerlotMe and I’m always happy to be a part of sampling such a variation of Merlot from around the world.  Over the years I have sampled Merlot from the same producers with different vintages and this year I had the fortune of trying 4 new wineries.  I had been traveling this past week so a few were delivered while I was gone so I will add them over the next week so make sure to come back and revisit.  We’re going to dig right into the wines highlighting each bottle of Merlot and the winery.   

The Wines 

The 2018 Rombauer Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot was my pick of the tasting.  Family owned since 1980 originally purchased by Koerner and Joan Rombauer the vineyards span both Napa Valley, Sonoma, Lake County and the Sierra Foothills.  The winery practices a number of sustainable initiatives and their main aim is to produce “distinctive, fruit-driven wines”.     

Made from 83% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4$ Petit Verdot this wine spends 15 months in 40% new French oak.  The color was a beautiful ruby, rather translucent in the glass.  Lush, ripe raspberries with aromas of vanilla.  Velvety on the palate with supple tannin showing juicy berries, raspberry and black cherries with vanilla notes.  ABV 14.5% SRP $48 

Merlot wines for MerlotMe
The 2019 Oberon Napa Valley Merlot is part of the Michael Mondavi Family.  Their focus is on Napa Valley Bordeaux varieties.  Owner and winemaker, Tony Coltrin, is a Napa Valley resident born in St. Helena and has been part of wine harvesting for over 45 years.  The majority of the blend is Merlot with 89.4% coming from Oakville vineyards and 8.6% Syrah from Dry Creek with 2% Zinfandel from Middletown.  The wine spends extended maceration with a long malolactic fermentation spent in 45% new French oak.   

Translucent ruby in color with raspberries, plums and blackberries on the nose.  I picked up a hint of green pepper in the beginning, but this wine needed to aerate as the tannins were quite tight in the beginning.  Rich with blackberries and currants with great acidity.  ABV 13.9% SRP $23 

The 2020 Ironstone Vineyards Merlot is from Lodi, CA.  Owner, John Kautz, started off as a grape supplier covering over 7,000 acres across the Sierra foothills and Lodi.  He was one of the top 10 grape growers of California.  In 1988 he started producing his own wines under Kautz Wines and then brought in Steve Millier as the winemaker when it became Ironstone Vineyards.  In 1989 the family built the new winery on his wife’s family’s ranch in Murphy, California.   

Translucent ruby in the glass with notes of dark cherries, blackberries and toasty vanilla.  Rich, lush fruit and smooth on the palette with supple tannin and good acidity.  I’m surprised this wine was only $14.99 a bottle.  ABV 14.5%  

L'Ecole Merlot Walla Walla Valley and Columbia Valley
This is my 3rd vintage trying the wines from L’Ecole, but the first year I was able to do a side-by-side of their Columbia Valley Merlot and Walla Walla Valley Estate Merlot. 

The 2018 L’Ecole Columbia Valley Merlot is their black labeled bottle where the grapes are sourced from a variety of vineyards including Dionysus (old vines), Candy Mountain, Ferguson, Seven Hills, Klipsun and Pepper Bridge vineyards.  The wine is made of 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot.  They produce about 5,300 cases and are typically found more in distribution.  The winemaker, Marcus Rafanelli, stated that the biggest difference between these 2 Merlot is that the Columbia Valley shows more of the varietal expression where the Walla Walla Valley is more terroir driven.  

The Columbia Valley Merlot was aged 30% in small new oak barrels for 18 months.  This wine was ruby in color with a tingle of purple.  Expressive fruit on the nose and palate showing cherries and black cherry.  The fruit shines on this wine and is an approachable, bright with moderate tannin.  ABV 14.5% SRP $25 

The 2018 L’Ecole Walla Walla Valley Estate Merlot is sourced equally from 2 very different certified sustainable estate vineyards, Fergus and Seven Hills.  The Ferguson vineyards sit on a 15 million year old salt lava flow and the vines grow in soil that is comprised of basalt with is very mineral rich in iron.  These grapes are made from lower yields and are richer in structure.   Those from Seven Hills are in a warmer climate with wine blown, mineral rich loess soil.  The red grapes here are the first harvested and these grapes lend more of an elegance to the tannin. 

The wine is made from 84% Merlot with 12% Cabernet Franc and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Between the two wines this was the beefier, more structured wine.  Ruby in color with a pretty nose violets, wet rock and red fruits.  The fruit wasn’t as purely shown in this wine and had some gripping tannin up front that seemed to smooth on the finish.  Would definitely pair this with a lamb or steak.  ABV 14.5% SRP $37 

Due to lack of time I didn’t have the opportunity to sample a multitude of dishes in time for my blog this week, but since I used a Coravin I plan on experimenting with these wines throughout the month.  Keep an eye on my social media.  I chose to pair these wines with a chicken-based dish simmered in a mushroom white wine sauce seasoned with thyme.  I think the baby bella mushrooms were the perfect complement to these Merlot and made the pairing.   

Chicken in a mushroom wine sauce paired with Merlot

Join my fellow Merlot wine and food lovers as they share their delish pairings.  Catch us live on Twitter this Saturday @ 11am EST at #WinePW as we chat more about Merlot.  

*These wines were provided as samples, but opinions are always my own.


  1. What a gorgeous lineup! And how fantastic to be able to compare the two L'Ecole Merlots side-by-side.

  2. Your chicken mushroom and white wine dish looks delicious! I look forward to hearing about your other pairings!

  3. I agree with you about the Rombauer. Gets better and better the longer it's open.

  4. Great collection of Merlot for a Month of Merlot Me!

  5. Great to compare the two L'Ecole! You have a bountiful Merlot harvest there! The history of the Ferguson vineyards is incredile!

  6. What a great round up of Merlot wines (and you gotta love the Coravin)! And your dish looks and sound delectable!