October is #MerlotMe month. It coincides with the cooler weather of autumn and remind us, why don’t we drink Merlot more often. Whether you are a regular fan of Merlot or it’s time to have a glass again, I am here to tease you with some tempting food pairings for the Merlot lover in all of us. Merlot is a varietal that pairs easily with a range of foods from classic lamb chops with rosemary and garlic to a seasonal fall salad of butternut squash and kale.
Merlot is a varietal known for its medium acidity, supple, silky tannins, medium to full body, and flavor notes that can range from cherry to plum, cedar, bay leaf, violet, mint, spice, leather, chocolate, and desert dust. Depending on where it is grown and the winemaking style, you are sure to find a Merlot that suits your taste.
Cool Growing Climates – Merlot from the right bank of Bordeaux in France tends to be more structured, higher tannins with more earthy characteristics like cherry, leather, cedar, and bay leaf.
Warmer Growing Climates – California Merlot tends to have fewer tannins, more fruit forward flavors like sweet cherry, jammy plum, and notes of baking spices and chocolate.
Washington State – This growing region is a blend of cooler night temperatures and hot daytime temperatures resulting in a Merlot that has more acidity and structure, lighter fruit body, with floral and minty notes.
I was provided with samples of these California Merlots. All opinions are my own.
Tasting and Pairing Notes
2016 DeCoy Merlot, Sonoma County
13.9% abv | $25.00 SRP (sample) | 97% Merlot 3% Cabernet Sauvignon
Medium purple in color with a blue tint. Medium acidity, body, and tannins. On the palate notes of vanilla with ripe black cherry, cassis, and blueberry.
Food Pairing: I paired this Merlot with a weeknight sheet pan dinner of Italian sausage and roasted cabbage and squash. The fruit notes in the wine brought out the sweetness in the roasted cabbage and squash. The acidity cut through the fat of the sausage and the intensity of the wine was met with the overall flavors in the food. Recipe
2015 Duckhorn Merlot, Napa Valley
14.5% abv | $56.00 SRP (sample) | 85% Merlot 12% Cabernet Sauvignon 2% Cabernet Franc 1% Petit Verdot
Medium ruby in color with a hint of orange at the rim. Medium+ acidity, medium body, and tannins. On the palate black cherry with cedar, and clove notes. Nicely balanced with a lingering finish.
Food Pairing: A lamb stir-fry with pomegranate seeds, spices, mint, and yogurt all played to the flavor notes and acidity in the wine. Recipe
2015 Cakebread Cellars Merlot, Napa Valley
14.9% abv | $54.00 SRP (sample) | 95% Merlot 5 Cabernet Franc
Medium ruby with hints of violet in color. Medium acidity, Medium+ tannins, and body. Notes of blackberry, vanilla, dried herbs, minerals. Well structured and complex. After 10-15 minutes in the glass notes of mocha.
Food Pairing: This wine paired well with the lamb chops and the lamb stir-fry. The herbal and mineral notes in the wine were both enhanced with the herbs, garlic, and spices in the lamb dishes.
2015 Mt. Brave, Mt. Veeder Napa Valley
15.0% abv | $80.00 SRP (sample) | 100% Merlot
Medium purple in color with a hint of orange at the rim. Medium+ acidity, body, and tannins. On the palate blueberry, black cherry, hints of licorice, mocha, and toasted oak. The mouthfeel is soft and round. Nicely balanced and complex.
Food Pairing: The lamb chops with rosemary and garlic were perfect with the fruity and earthy Merlot. The butternut squash kale salad with the sweetness of the roasted squash, dried tart cherries and the earthy bitter notes of the kale was an amazing pairing with the wine, hitting every congruent note also found in the wine. Recipe + Butternut Squash and Kale Salad recipe below
2015 Duckhorn Merlot Three Palms Vineyard, Napa Valley – Saving this special wine for a future post.
This salad makes a nice side to lamb chops and a glass of Merlot.
- 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 lb. multi grain bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 4 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1-1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large bunch Lacinato kale, ribs removed and chopped
- 2/3 cup Sartori Sar Vecchio or Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
- 1/2 cup dried tart cherries
- 1 medium shallot, sliced thinly
Preheat the oven to 420 F. Position the racks on the upper and lower third of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Roast the butternut squash: On one of the baking sheets, toss the butternut squash cubes with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on the lower third oven rack. Roast for 20 minutes and then toss and continue to roast for another 15 minutes.
Croutons: On the other baking sheet combine bread cubes with pumpkin seeds. Toss and coat the bread and seeds with extra virgin olive oil. Arrange in a single layer. Roast for 10-13 minutes on the upper third rack in the oven.
Vinaigrette: In a small bowl add all the vinaigrette ingredients except the olive oil. Whisk together to mix. Slowly add the olive oil whisking to emulsify the vinaigrette.
Kale: In a large bowl add the chopped kale and about 1/4 of the vinaigrette. Mix well to coat the leaves. With clean hands massage the kale leaves for about 30 seconds.
To serve: Add the dried cherries and shallot slices to the bowl of kale, mix. Drizzle a little vinaigrette and mix again. Add the roasted butternut squash and crouton mix, gently toss and mix. Drizzle in the remaining vinaigrette and toss.
Join the Wine Pairing Weekend Group Saturday, October 13th for our #MerlotMe chat on Twitter at 11:00 am ET following the hashtag #WinePW and check out more Merlot pairings below ~
- Jill at l’Occasion shares “#MerlotMe In The Kitchen“
- Cindy at Grape-Experiences writes “#MerlotMe with Family, Friends, and Food“
- Lori at Dracaena shares “ #MerlotMe and the Little Chef “
- Gwen at Wine Predator shares “Washington #MerlotMe Paired with Ahi Tuna and Salmon for #WinePW“
- Rupal at Syrah Queen shares “Celebrating #Merlotme with Duckhorn & L’Ecole 41”
- Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “So Many Merlots, So Many Pairings for #WinePW“
- Martin at Enofylz shares “Penne Boscaiola Paired with 2015 Duckhorn Napa Valley Merlot“
- David at Cooking Chat shares “BBQ Beef Stew with Three Palms Merlot“
- Michelle at Rockin Red Blog shares “Enough Already! Just Drink Merlot”
- Sarah at Curious Cuisiniere shares “Peking Duck and a Merlot Wine Pairing“
- Jane at Always Ravenous shares “Food Pairings for Merlot Lovers“
- Julian at BC Wine Trends shares “BC Merlot with Ribs for Thanksgiving“
- Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “A month of #MerlotMe Wine and Food Pairings”
- Nicole at Somms Table shares “2 oz Pour: #MerlotMe Moments“
- Liz from What’s in that Bottle shares “I’ve Got #MerlotMe Mania”
- Jennifer at Vino Travels Italy shares “You Had me at #MerlotMe“
- Jeff at Food Wine Click! shares “Merlot for Every Day of the Week”
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!