M is for Manchego Mac N Cheese and Malbec: 8 Wines, 4 Countries, 3 Continents for #WinePW

Eight bottles of wine and eight of my favorite friends gathered at Drummer Diane’s to celebrate Malbec on Malbec Day last month — and what a celebration we had! What else would I expect when the gathering included many of my chosen family of friends from high school and/or Burning Man?

As I had a number of different Malbec in my sample collection, I thought it would be fun to choose two from each country: Argentina, Chile, France, and the United States (California and Washington) .

This also meant we had wine from three continents — North and South America plus Europe — and we had a range of price points: do you really get what you pay for? Then we could compare and contrast them to see if we could make any general observations. 

We focused on tasting through the wines with some light appetizers, then we tasted through them again with the main dishes. We chose the menu with Malbec in mind and coordinated our potluck via email.



Argentina is famous for its MALBEC — and its BEEF. But as our group had several vegetarians, we decided to NOT make meat the emphasis of the meal. However, while it is easy to find and buy vegetarian empanadas, Jason made homemade ones using his favorite recipe which has beef in it — and no one had time to go buy any!

  • Various Spanish cheeses (from Trader Joe’s; thanks Diane!)
  • Three cheese semolina bread (I bought at Vons)
  • Empanadas with whole wheat crust (thanks Jason for making these!)
  • South American Locro vegetable dish (thanks Helen!)
  • Manchego Mac N Cheese (thanks Sue!)
  • Roasted Brussels Sprouts (thanks Margaret for helping to make them!)
  • Caesar Salad (with anchovies on the side; thanks to Margaret for your help preparing!)

Sue adapted this recipe for Manchego Mac N Cheese by Selma Brown Morrow from the Rachel Ray Website:


  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 1 cup panko
  • 1 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 8 oz. Manchego cheese, grated
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups half-and-half
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 8 oz. macaroni, cooked
  1. In skillet, melt butter over medium; toast panko, stirring often, about 4 minutes. Add paprika; season.
  2. In saucepan, toss next 3 ingredients. Stir in half-and-half and yogurt. Cook over medium-low, whisking until smooth, about 5 minutes; season.
  3. Stir in pasta; top with panko.
  4. While it was already cooked and still warm, we baked it off for about 20 minutes in the oven that was already hot and cooking bread and brussels sprouts.
  5. Recently I had a variation with smoked gouda that was really tasty and that paired wonderfully with a Lake County Malbec…


Pineapple Helen with a sculpture by Eric Richards



  • From USA
    2015 – Mercer – Horse Heaven Hills – Malbec – 14% alcohol – Sample – Washington State – Horse Heaven Hills AVA
    2013 – Cantara – Malbec – Clement Hills – Lodi – 13.7% alcohol – $40  – sample
  • From Chile
    2016 – Reserva – Casillero del Diablo – Concha Y Toro – 13.5% alcohol
    2016 – Serie Riberas – Gran Reserva – Ribera del Linguiririca – 13.5% alcohol – $17
  • From Argentina
    Amalaya – Esperanza por Un Milagro – 13.9% alcohol – $16
    2015 – Colome – 14.9% alcohol – $25
  • From France
    2014 – Clos Siguier – Cahors – 12.5% alcohol
    2014 – Chateau Lamartine – Cahors- 12.5% alcohol

2015 – Mercer – Horse Heaven Hills AVA Washington USA – Malbec – 14% alcohol – Sample – SRP $15

Color: Dense, on the purple side

Nose: Restrained. With a larger bowled glass, I got fresh blueberry pie, while Helen got cherry.

Palate: Sue found this wine to have minerals and slate on the palate that hit you on the front side. Helen had more to say about the mouth feel of the wine: “There is a velvety firm sensation left in the mouth”

Pairing: Helen found that the Mercer paired well with the goat mild gouda.

Clearly, Helen found a lot to say about this wine while the rest of us were more reserved — like we found the wine.

2013 – Cantara – Malbec – Clement Hills – Lodi CA USA – 13.7% alcohol – $40  – sample

Color: Dense, purple with ruby ring.

Nose: Helen found a little bit of cherry, a little bit of pepper, while smelled blueberry and bramble berry: not so ripe, but fresh, a not over-ripened blackberry.

Palate: Helen found the Cantara to be a lovely, pleasant wine. Diane was all about the mouth feel: she found it softer yet more lively:

“This is more like a soft velvet on the tongue with lively notes.”

Even with several years in the bottle, this wine can lay down longer to shine. You can tell that this wine has been barrel aged for many months. The flavors are more integrated, with menthol herbal qualities present, and a beautiful complexity to the wine.

Sue expressed her appreciation of this wine, letting the group know that this wine is wonderful after it has opened up for a while. “It continues to get better and better,” she said. This wine is good now and will lay down for a while.

A gem in anyone’s cellar.

When people think of Lodi, they think big fruit, but that is not this wine. There is an elegance and structure, and it comes across as food friendly.

Pairings: I’d love to try this wine with pork ribs on the BBQ.  It was beautiful with the spicy empanada.

Helen’s favorite: “If you can afford this, it takes Malbec to a new level.”

Sue also said the Cantara was her favorite because of the beautiful balance of the wine and how well it paired with so many of the foods on the table.

2016 – Reserva – Casillero del Diablo – Concha Y Toro – 13.5% alcohol SRP $10

Color: We’re an artistic group and this wine was identified as illituriun, an oil paint color. I did a google search and didn’t find it so I’ll have to check back with the group to get it right!

Nose: A smoke quality, earthy, dusty, possibly ashes, like a jerkey or smoked meat quality but not a slim jim.

Palate:  “The fruit blooms in my mouth,” someone remarked. The wine is a bit simple and thin on the palate, but it is a nice bottle of Malbec for the price. We are consistently impressed with the quality for the price of the Concha Y Toro Casillero del Diablo wines.

Pairings: This wine went so well with the manchecho cheese, and a knockout with the Mac N Cheese.

2016 – Serie Riberas – Gran Reserva – Ribera del Linguiririca – 13.5% alcohol – $17

Color: Dense purple color with a garnet ring.

Nose: Spend a few dollars more and the pleasure is increased. Pepper and spice, roasted root vegetables like beets, roasted rhubarb with a bit of strawberry.

Palate: Blueberries with rhubarb, a rhubarb tartness, huckleberries, acidity akin to pineapple, mineralogy. According to many at the table this wine was another go to wine. It was great on its own. There was with a beautiful fruit forwardness to this wine with a lingering mineral finish.

Pairing: Lovely with our blue cheese stuffed olives and brussel sprouts. Everyone liked this wine with the goat milk gouda. Some did not like this wine until they drank it with food, the wine changed with food. This is not a cocktail wine and shined through when paired with food. Surprisingly decent with a bite of salad with anchovy. The vegetarian locro also worked well.

A lot going for this wine for under $20! Helen: “For the price this is a fun ride.” She loved how well this wine went with the ceasur salad, and continued to comment on the pairing as the evening progressed.

Argentina Amalaya – Esperanza por Un Milagro – 13.9% alcohol – $16

Color: Dense rich purple with crimson ring, beautiful color.

Nose: There is a bit of funk on the nose. Diane found a bit of cigar, I found tons of blue fruit on the nose, with bright cherry.

Palate: Blue fruit on the palate, very soft, the finish is not super smooth but “dirty” on the tip of the tongue. Helen kind of liked Amalaya, she felt the dirt flavor was appealing to her, she does not always like heavy fruit. It has an unusual dryness.

2015 – Colome – 14.9% alcohol – $25

Color: Much denser color, inky like a Petite Sirah.

Nose: The nose on this wine is in a whole different universe, you can smell the complexity of this wine, and the fruit is deeper, richer.

Palate:  Lovely deep fruit in this wine, and well balanced with a velvety texture.

Pairing: This wine for some of us could be enjoyed without food, but many found that this wine was so enhanced with the empanadas that Jason prepared for us tonight. Margarette  found this wine to be versatile, it can be enjoyed on its own, with appetizers or with a main dish. Since Diane went to the  Colome first because of the Mac n Cheese, Sue felt she needed to go there too. Before she went there she had a bit of a sip without food which again brought out rich fruit and lovely minerals with a long lingering finish. Pair with food of the region to completely enjoy. With the spice of the empanadas it brings out fruit in the wine. The mac n cheese with the wine was very nice, the cloves and paprika with the mancheco cheese was perfect with the wine the cloves added to the mouth feel of the wine. It also surprisingly went with the cesura salad.

I thought this was a fabulous wine for the price; it really impressed me. Sue thought it was “a nicely sophisticated wine with out the huge price point. Nicely but not overly fruit forward. Lovely with the entire meal from the cheese to the empanadas, to the mac and cheese to the brussel sprouts. Big bang without the huge price point. Not quite Cantara, but a lovely wine.”

2014 – Clos Siguier – Cahors France – 12.5% alcohol SRP $18

Color: A brownish quality to the wine and not as dense as the last few we sampled.

Nose: Definitely has an earth smell — forest floor, mushrooms, violets, cave entrance, and even bat guano. Sue got the cave and forest floor, but also picked up violets and maybe even violets or orchids mixed with the damp earthiness of a cave. If you were in a cave, and your other senses were mixed, you might get more from the nose because you have to pay attention in a deeper more complex way.

Palate: The palate of this wine is all about clean minerals and bright fresh fruit, and a long lingering mineral finish. This wine made the empanadas shine, it helped us focus on the complexity of the empanadas, where the last wine when paired with the empanadas brought out fruit in the wine. Diane found a nutmeg quality in the wine.

“There is a lot more dancing on my palate, it has been awoken,” said Drummer Diane.

2014 – Chateau Lamartine – Cahors- 12.5% alcohol SRP $14

Color: Red velvet theater drapes.

Nose: subtle musky, husky earthy like “an abandoned sex house” someone suggested — “There is a sexiness to this wine.”

Palate: Very tannic, many minerals present, salty.

Pairing: It does need a bit of help from food for us to appreciate this wine., It’s much better with a richer fattier food, It loved the creamy blue cheese. With these types of food, this fatty rich food changes the profile of the wine.



Diane wanted to go keep going back to the “Frenchies”, surprisingly as they were both very different. The Chateau St Martine she loved for sipping and drinking:  it was beautiful on its own. The Clos Siguirer, conjured up a much deeper love, she did not want to drink it on its own, she wanted to dive into it; she found more complexity, and found it beautifully brilliant with the meal. If she just wanted to sip without contemplation, she would choose the Chateau ST Martine, but with a meal, the  Clos Soiguierr would be the one to go to.

On the prowl with me — a group of Buena grads: Maxwell, Sue, Margaret, and Diane!

Discover more wines or wine regions that start with M with the Wine Pairing Weekend Crew! Read the invitation post from Lori of Dracaena Wines here. Join us for our Twitter chat Saturday from 8-9am Pacific time or search the hashtag #WinePW. And be sure to click through to the following blog posts by my esteemed colleagues!

Jeff Burrows of FoodWineClick will be discussing “M” is for Marselan

Jill Barth of L’OCCASION explains Monterey Wines For Summertime

Camilla Mann of Culinary Adventures with Camilla enjoyed M is for Mourvèdre with Maple-Glazed Duck Legs

Cindy of Grape Experiences enjoyed an evening Wine and Dine: La Mora Favorites with Margherita Flatbread

Lauren of The Swirling Dervish is chatting about Dry Muscat from Málaga and Pork Paella

David of Cooking Chat enjoyed Asiago Lemon Spaghetti with Malagousia Wine from Greece

Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm celebrated In the Merry Merry Month of May I Met Magistrate Merlot

Nicole on Somm’s Table is Cooking to the Wine: Recanati Marawi with Black Cod and Papaya-Cucumber Salad

Lisa, The Wine Chef paired Roast Chicken With Moorooduc Estate Pinot Noir From The Mornington Peninsula – The Best Australian Wine Region You’ve Never Heard Of #WinePW

Jennifer of VinoTravels enjoyed Malvasia on the island of Sicilia

Host Dracaena Wines will be #WinePW Meets #Winephabet Street; M is for Moscatel

Stay tuned for next month’s edition of #WinePW when we make recommendations of Australian wines to pair with foods from the barbie!

Thanks again to Drummer Diane for hosting us and for her daughter Ziah’s help getting everything ready and for cleaning up!


8 thoughts on “M is for Manchego Mac N Cheese and Malbec: 8 Wines, 4 Countries, 3 Continents for #WinePW

  1. I think it is so wonderful that you have such an incredible core group of friends. Nothing is better than wine and good friends. Fantastic post and lots and lots of Malbec! Whole wheat empanadas.. I’m going to have to give that a try with my wheat dough pizza dough.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Dry Muscat from Málaga, Spain and Pork Paella (#WinePW) – The Swirling Dervish

  3. Pingback: M is for Marselan #WinePW | foodwineclick

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