Friday, October 7, 2022

Warm Up with Merlot and Pappardelle Bolognese

It’s hard to believe it’s been 8 years since our Wine Pairing Weekend group (#WinePW) has partnered with #MerlotMe to celebrate Merlot throughout the month of October with an array of great wines and recipes to pair them with. Our leader, Jeff of Food Wine Click, gave a great look back at the abundance of food and wine pairings with Merlot that have been written over the years. So if you’re ever out of ideas what to pair with Merlot this is your guide. This year we’re also highlighting what some of the wineries are doing to focus on sustainability, which is a hot topic in the wine industry right now.

This October for #MerlotMe I’ll be focusing on two Merlot wines from both J. Lohr and Decoy both located in California. It’s a shame I actually haven’t made it over to California at all yet in my life, but I emphasize yet! I’ve probably been in more countries throughout Europe.  

The Winery ~ J. Lohr 

J. Lohr is a known winery located in Paso Robles. Jerry Lohr, the founder of the J. Lohr winery, has roots as a farmer for over 70 years so a focus on the environment and practicing sustainability is key to the Lohr family. Today the winery is run by the 2nd generation that continues to focused on sustainability assessing their techniques and practices that they take to conserve resources and focus on community, social and economic leadership. In 2020 they received the Green Medal Leader Award from the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CCSW). Demonstrated on J. Loh’s site the Leader Award honors the winery or vineyard that “best demonstrates the ability to balance multiple objectives of environmental, economic, and social goalds, excelling in these areas with sustianability being clearly integrated into the overall business”.  

The 2020 J. Lohr Los Osos Paso Robles Merlot is a blend of 76% Merlot, 14% Malbec and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. The Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon are added to bring out juiciness in the wine along with emphasized aromas. The Merlot grapes are grown in the El Pomar District of the Paso Robles AVA, which tends to be a cooler site. The grapes are harvested at various ripeness levels. They harvest some of the grapes early to highlight some of those classic Merlot nuances and some Merlot grapes are harvested later to provide more depth. This wine undergoes a whole berry fermentation so that too much tannin isn’t extracted. The wine spends 12 months in the barrel, which 15% is made of new American oak.  

The wine was deep ruby in color with enticing aromas of jammy blackberries, plums, violet and sweet toasty oak. On the palate this medium-bodied wine shows juicy berries with bright acidity and subtle tannins. ABV 14.1% SRP $15 

The Winery ~ Decoy 

I’ve had the fortunate of getting very familiar with the Duckhorn and Decoy Merlots over the years and this year it was the same reliable, quality Merlot I’ve come to enjoy. Thirty years ago Dan and Margaret Duckhorn started the winery in Napa Valley. The Decoy brand was established under Duckhorn in 1985 coming out with its first red blend. The Decoy wines in comparison to Duckhorn are more approachable in their youth with about half the price point. In 2012 the winery acquired the Ridgeline vineyard, which is known for its Bordeaux varietals located on the steep mountain side of Oak Mountain between 100-2,000 feet where the Merlot grapes are harvested from. Then in 2013 they also acquired the Brownell vineyards in the Alexander Valley of Sonoma.  

Duckhorn was one of the 1st to receive the CCSW certification in 2010. When you locate the CCSW logos on the bottles for both of these wines shared today it means that at least 85% of the grapes were grown on certified sustainable vineyards and produced in a certified sustainable winery. Duckhorn continues to practice sustainability in a number of ways. Most of the vineyards also certified by Fish Friendly Farming that protects the habitat and environment. They also practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM) where year-round they eliminated pesticides that are unnecessary, protecting insects that are important for pollination and minimizing any pollution to the air. 

The 2019 Decoy Merlot was definitely a favorite for me this week. This wine is a blend of 80% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Cabernet Franc. The wines is 60% grown in Sonoma, 32% comes from the Central Coast and 8% in Mendocino. The wine spends 12 months in 100% French oak. Ruby red in color with aromas of black cherry, raspberries and plums. Rich, juicy and lush berries carried onto the palate with well-integrated tannins. Big flavors with such elegance. ABV 13.9% SRP $25.  

Life has been crazy lately and I feel that I haven’t had the time to prepare a nice family meal so I set aside one night to make a traditional bolognese with my husband’s favorite pasta, pappardelle. There is something about slow cooking a sauce throughout the day that fills the house with such amazing aromas and warms the soul. This dish paired so well with both of the Merlots that there is no need to choose. 

Join our fellow #MerlotMe bloggers as they explore the vast array of Merlot around the world with suggested pairings.  Catch us live on Twitter this Saturday at 11am EST @ #winepw.  See you there!

▪Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “Merlot: Smooth, Savory and Sustainable
▪Cindy at Grape Experiences shares “Comfort Food and Wines for Fall: Savory Slow Cooker Chicken and Classic Merlot
▪Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Celebrating #MerlotMe with Mushrooms, Truffles, and a Wine from a Cal Alumna
▪David at Cooking Chat shares “Everyday Pasta Sauce with Ground Beef and Chickpeas
▪Jane at Always Ravenous shares “Fall Food Pairings with Merlot
▪Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles shares “#MerlotMe with figs, cherries and a nice grilled steak
▪Linda at My Full Wine Glass shares “Kicking off #MerlotMe month with Napa Valley wine and lasagna soup
▪Gwendolyn at Wine Predator…Gwendolyn Alley shares “Smoked Lamb/Beef Meatloaf Says #MerlotMe with Sonoma’s Decoy and Washington’s Pedastal
▪Susannah at Avvinare shares “Forever A Devoted Merlot Fan"
▪Liz at What's in that Bottle shares "Three Family-Owned Merlots for Fall"
▪Terri at Our Good Life shares "Provencal Eggplant Stew + Decoy Merlot for #MerlotMe"
▪Jeff at Food Wine Click! shares “Merlot and 40 Cloves of Garlic

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


  1. I was lucky enough to get the Decoy as well. A great pairing with the pasta.

  2. Reliable for sure. And your Bolognese looks amazing. So grateful for MerlotME month. Every. Single. Year.

  3. Long simmering pasta sauces are so nice, filling the house with a preview of dinner!

  4. I am so ready to start fall cooking! All these delicious sauces and Merlot! What a great way to celebrate Fall, October and #MerlotMe!