This article is all about Merlot, in conjunction with #MerlotMe and #WinePW, featuring two bottles from the Napa Valley.
When I was a younger gal, an early wine drinker, my go-to wine was Merlot. I still remember walking into a Champagne bar and ordering a glass of Merlot instead of bubbly. Merlot proved, and still does, to be a fascinating grape…one that blends well and tastes superb on it’s own…one that is noble and classic…one that is cultivated around the world and loved by people everywhere.
I’ve since come to love so many sorts of wine and don’t rely on just one favorite, but I do still consider Merlot to be an evening-out sort of drink, not necessarily for special occasions but a drink for when we have time. In my opinion Merlot shines along with some breathing time (which takes time), a lovely meal (which also takes time) and conversation (definitely needs times). Merlot isn’t a gulp-and-grab and that’s a good thing.
About that Merlot…
In the glass as on the vine, Merlot is gorgeous. It is a deep, bluish-purple tone, quite eye-catching and vital. It’s flavors are soft and rich, filled with dark berries, chocolate notes and possibly jam (to me, this element needs to be well-controlled). Merlot makes an outstanding blending grape and is a prominent feature of some of the most prestigious Bordeaux wines, such as those found in Pomerol and Saint-Émilon.
Appellation American gives Madame Merlot this fun character description, which I enjoy so much I’m including to make you smile too:
“Madame Merlot, you’re a big gal, soft and smoky; how we love your full, curvaceous figure. But you are so much more than simply a voluptuous pinup girl from Bordeaux. You carry yourself with a demeanor of maturity always ahead of your age. Perhaps it is your ever amiable and generous nature that makes you the perfect companion for the acid-tongued Cabernet Sauvignon. You smooth the rough edges he’s so prone to in his youth, making him more presentable to polite society. Your relocation to the New World was a little belated, but how pleased we are to see you now comfortably in residence, everywhere from Long Island to the Napa Valley.”
Speaking of the Napa Valley
I have two special wines for this Wine Pairing Weekend meets Merlot Me event; both are from the Napa Valley:
Duckhorn Napa Valley Merlot 2013
Duckhorn grows Merlot because they are good at it and because they connect with it. When Dan and Margaret Duckhorn moved to Napa in the 1970’s they were one of less than one hundred wineries in the area. Merlot was an early passion, and it remains so today. Their premier release included 800 cases of Merlot, a varietal that Dan had relished during earlier visits to Bordeaux. “I liked the softness, the seductiveness, the color,” says Dan, “the fact that it went with a lot of different foods; it wasn’t so bold, didn’t need to age so long, and it had this velvety texture to it. It seemed to me to be a wonderful wine to just enjoy. I became enchanted with Merlot.” Taking inspiration and advice from Bordeaux growers, they set out to make North American Merlot to excite the US market.
The bottle of Duckhorn Napa Valley Merlot 2013 was sourced from their seven estate vineyards plus the vineyards of other local, independent growers. The bottle actually contains a gentle blend: 88% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc. The grapes for this vintage were harvested early thanks to late-season dreamy weather, with all fruit in by October 10, 2013.
Trefethan Family Vineyards Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley Merlot 2013
Eugene and Catherine Trefethan moved to Napa a few years ahead of the Duckhorns, serving as pioneers in an area that has grown synonymous with excellent wine. At the time, the grew and sold grapes in their retirement. Their son and his wife Janet saw reason to expand into commercial wine making, applying what they’d learned in business school with their own style and knack. In the natural course of family tradition, their own children, Loren and Hailey, are included as full-time staff members. As time goes by, the nature of business has developed for the Trefethan Family, who embrace a sustainability program and have been highly awarded by critics. Trefethan operates with 100% estate production. Says Loren, “Decisions made in the vineyard and cellar not only guide the expression of the land, but affect the very soul of the wine. For this reason, we have always committed ourselves to estate production, adamant that we should be the ones growing the grapes and turning them into wine. Our passion requires it.One Family. One Estate. One Passion. This is who we are.”
I enjoyed a bottle of their Trefethan Family Vineyards Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley Merlot 2013 which is a balance of 95% Merlot, 4% Malbec and a touch of 1% Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes for this bottle were harvested from September 10 – October 11, 2013, enjoying the early harvest enabled by pleasant weather.
MerlotMe is a month-long collaboration to celebrate Merlot, any Merlot from any place and any wine maker. To participate all you need is a bottle or glass of Merlot. I recommend sharing and pairing with friends and food, but keeping it to oneself is perfectly fine. Share your thoughts on social media with the hashtag #MerlotMe.
The Wine Pairing Weekend group is participating, kicking off with our monthly twitter chat on Saturday, October 8th at 10am. At that time, we will reveal our posts highlighting our MerlotMe experiences and pairings including:
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”
Jennifer from Vino Travels – An Italian Wine Blog shares “#MerlotMe with Sausage Baked Ziti”
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” and we are happy you’ve joined us
Lauren from The Swirling Dervish shares “Mercy Monday and Merlot”
Gwen from Wine Predator shares “#MerlotMe with savory simple fall foods”
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! is our host and he shares “A Love Affair for Merlot and the Grill”