California vs. France #MerlotMe with squash, chard, pasta #WinePW

Many wines have days devoted to them, and some regions or states have months. For example, California’s month was in September and the final Thursday in August is Cabernet Day.

Coming up, we’ve got–

As Sue and I would be competing in a blind tasting in France today Oct 12, before we left we decided to test ourselves — could we tell the difference between Merlot from the US and France? What might be identifiable or definable characteristics that we might try to taste for when we would compete in the World Wine Tasting Championships at Chateau Chambord Oct 12?

To that end, we tasted blind four wines — two from France and two from California. We paired them with seasonal fall foods: vegetables grown from Sue’s garden with pasta.


  • Salad greens with blue cheese dressing
  • Bow tie pasta with winter squash and chard. Sue’s take off from a recipe she read in Food Network magazine for the October 2019 issue. She had winter squash in her garden and chard.
  • Pan seared salmon

 2017 Decoy, Sonoma County, Merlot 14.1% alcohol SRP $30
Sample for my review consideration.

Decoy is made from Sonoma fruit by Duckhorn which had the wine of the year recently with their Three Palms; learn more about Duckhorn here.

Color: Translucent, red red, ruby red, scarlet red, coral rim.

Nose: Fruit and baking spices, vanilla, cherry cola, some sage

Palate: Fruit forward with nice acidity and a grippy finish. Not a lot of herbal notes that are renowned for Merlot. A bit of menthol on the finish. Really nicely balanced for such a young and commercial wine that is readily available — often at Trader Joe’s! This wine really delivers.

Pairing: Really quite nice with the blue cheese dressing on the salad. The tangy blue cheese in the dressing just loves this wine. So yummy with the creamy squash pasta dish. I loved it with the salmon, but Sue just said it was alright.


2015 – McIntyre – Merlot – Kimberly Vineyards – Arroyo Seco – 14.5% alcohol SRP $25 190 cases
Sample for my review consideration.

While Duckhorn’s Merlot was familiar to us and we’ve written about it before with pleasure, McIntyre is a new favorite.

Said to be one of the most knowledgeable viticulturists in California, Steve McIntyre owns and operates Monterey Pacific which manages 12,000 acres of vines in Monterey County, and has planted or farmed nearly one quarter of the vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA.

While the McIntyre Estate Vineyard is in the SLH AVA, warmer Kimberly Vineyard is in Arroyo Seco AVA to the south and this means, according to the winery, deep, powerful, well-structured Merlots. The 20 year old  SIP certified vineyard is named Kristen McIntyre’s mother.

With a nearly perfect growing season, winemaker Byron Kosuge  could practice minimal intervention at their facility in Santa Rosa. Following a five-day cold soak, juice fermented “in small, half-ton bins with little intervention other than twice daily pumpovers and the occasional punch down. Once in barrel, the wine was not racked until just prior to bottling.”

Color: Translucent in color. rich ruby red with a mauve rim.

Nose: When first tasting blind against another Merlot and French Bordeaux we felt this wine was a bit hot on the nose, however if you open it and decant the heat blows off leaving you with a nice fruit forward nose. cherry and plum; there is also a bit of sage in the background.

Palate: More tannins than acidity. Tons of blackberry fruit with a dryness rather than a sweetness. Cherry and anise on the palate as well. Silky tannins.

Pairing: Likes the blue cheese, but not fabulous. It liked the salmon, but I could see where it would work well with pork or chicken. I want this with a burger– turkey burger or turkey meatloaf. Sue loved it with the squash pasta dish. I felt it had a dryness with this dish. With all three portions of our meal tonight we found the wine to be very smooth.

Sue: “So, so good with the squash, chard, and cream.”

2016 Château du Taillan Haut-Médoc SRP $23 14.5 alcohol
Cru Bourgeois, Bordeaux
70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc
Sample for my review consideration.
Cru Bourgeois, and Bordeaux in general, claims to lead the world in environmentally-conscious, sustainable wines, and a commitment to greener vinification is key to being included in the Cru Bourgeois classification of 2020. Château Taillan, led by Arnelle Cruse has changed aspects of their winemaking to accommodate this. Read more about her and other Cru Bourgeois winemakers  in this 2018 article by Roger Voss in Wine Enthusiast
Color: Ruby red.

Nose: So fruit forward. Cherry and menthol, Cherry Ricola, salinity freshness,

Palate: Grippy tannins in the front of the palate. Acidity resonates throughout the palate. It has a nice clean finish. Menthol, without being overly herbal.

Pairing: So very nice with the blue cheese dressing.

More than all the other Merlot we tasted tonight, this wine loved the salmon bringing out a fresh ocean salinity in the meat.

What a lovely pairing. This was the Wow moment of the evening. Wonderful when a red wine should engage with a piece of fish so beautifully. Surprisingly, it was not as good with the rich winter squash. We did not want to go anywhere else with the food after having it with the sockeye salmon.

2015 Chateau Haut Selve, Graves, 20th Anniversary Vintage 13.5% alcohol  SRP $24
60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon
Sample for my review consideration.

Unfortunately, this wine was corked. It something that happens. We open and taste A LOT of wine, and we probably find 2-4 are corked a year. This is why some people in wine prefer to use screw caps or synthetic corks.

Join our twitter chat today, Saturday Oct. 12 from 8-9am Pacific Time by following the hashtag #WinePW; the topics of our conversation are below.

You can also read the posts by others who are participating today by clicking on the clink. Many of us will be posting about Merlot thought the month of October — so check back!

What we will be talking about today during the twitter chat is below. If you miss it, you can still search out the conversation by checking out the hashtag #MerlotME on twitter or #WinePW.

10:55 am ET Welcome to our 5th annual #MerlotMe and #WinePW discussion! Special thanks to the producers who generously provided wines!


11:00 am ET

Q1 Welcome to the #WinePW #MerlotMe chat. Where are you tweeting from?  Introduce yourself, share a link to your blog. Visitors and Wineries too!


11:05 am ET

Q2 Are you a Merlot fan, or did you need a little convincing to come back? #WinePW #MerlotMe


11:10am ET

Q3 Tell us about the Merlot you’re featuring today. Where’s it from? #WinePW #MerlotMe


11:15am ET

Q4 Did your Merlot tend more to old world flavors or new world? Any surprises? #WinePW #MerlotMe

Decoy surprised us by being more Old World than we expected while the McIntyre was clearly new world.

11:20 am ET

Q5 Did you turn up anything interesting in your research for your post?  #WinePW #MerlotMe


11:25 am ET

Q6 What did you choose for your pairing? Reasons? Post a link! #WinePW #MerlotMe


11:30 am ET

Q7 Your thoughts on your Merlot pairing, success or failure, no matter! #WinePW #MerlotMe


11:35am ET

Q8 When it comes to pairing, are there foods you would avoid? Does it depend on the Merlot? #WinePW #MerlotMe

It’s so versatile! But light fish, sweet foods.

11:40am ET

Q9 Do you have other Merlot pairings you’ll be trying this month? #WinePW #MerlotMe

We talked about a lot of ideas!

11:45am ET

Q10 Merlot is grown all over the world, are there regions you’d like to explore through their Merlot? #WinePW #MerlotMe



Q11 Do you have any final thoughts or new questions for the group? #WinePW #MerlotMe



Q12 Any comments/questions from the peanut gallery?  Share a thought, comment, question! #WinePW #MerlotMe


12:00pm ET/ 9 am PST

Thanks for joining #WinePW. Thanks again to the #MerlotMe wineries for their generous sponsorship. Now go buy some Merlot!

7 thoughts on “California vs. France #MerlotMe with squash, chard, pasta #WinePW

  1. Sorry to hear the cork fouled the 2015 Chateau Haut Selve, Graves, 20th Anniversary Vintage. Your menu sounded absolutely delicious. I’m not a fish fan, but I do appreciate a good salmon. The pasta dishes with wonderful fresh bared vegetables 😋
    Hope your day of competition went well.


  2. It’s too bad about the corked wine, but will definitely have to try a cru bourgeois with salmon. Great comparative tasting!


  3. So question for you — I see you used some bleu cheese in the first dish. Do you think it would have gone well with some strong bleu cheese on a cheese plate? Looks good!

    And well done, you! Enjoyed following your trip to France!


  4. There are many vineyards in this world. Some are special and some are most beautiful. US city California is most famous in wine and i also visit many time in this vineyards. Spanish also famous in wine making. Its wine brands are famous all over the world. when will visit you Napa? When you come please tell me i will receive you.


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