#MerlotMe: 3 under $30 from Chile, CA, WA

More #MerlotMe! October is #MerlotMe month and we have three under $30 from three regions of the world to recommend to you.

Previously we compared four merlot from France and California that also were under $30, and we wrote about two from Washington’s L’Ecole No 41 (one at $25 and the other at $37).

Clearly there is plenty of excellent merlot to be found in the under $30 price range! (Is this still part of the Sideways effect of no Merlot Miles?)

Seared ahi with a rub of Italian herbs plus crespelle with ricotta and spinach

On Tuesday, Sue and I were already doing an Italian themed dinner with herbed seared tuna to pair with two Tuscan wines, a Chianti and a Vermentino for this Saturday’s Italian Food Wine Travel taste of Tuscany: read “Tasting Tuscany: Tuna, Beans, EVOO, Chianti, Vermentino #ItalianFWT here  with recipes for the crespelles pictured above and the rub for the tuna as well as the bean recipe.

As we suspected the meal would go with merlot, we decided to open these three bottles up and sample them. What a great idea!

2018  Casillero Del Diablo – Merlot – Concha Y Toro – 13.5% alcohol SRP $12
sample for my review consideration

Wine from Chile consistently overdelivers for the price, and this one from Concha y Toro is also easy to find.

Color: Garnet tones with a fuchsia ring

Nose: Mint and bell pepper, nice vegetals, jalapeño, jalapeño jelly plus cherry fruit.

Palate: Young bright fruit, juicy but not jammy, makes you salivate. Minerals are present, fresh cherry fruit. This wine doesn’t disappoint and goes well with food.

Pairing: This wine is all about taking on big bold flavors. It can handle salty olives, making Sue think about a putenesca sauce. With our seared tuna with a bold herbed crust, it was just all right as the fennel seeds fight with the wine a bit. Sue said that if she was going to crust a tuna with this wine, she would just crust the tuna with pepper. We tasted it with our crespelles, and while not the perfect dish, it perked up with the nutmeg making Sue think of anything squash with a touch of nutmeg. With our white bean crostini, it really liked the creaminess of the beans and the brightness of the blistered tomatoes, making us both think of a rich bean soup.

2017 – Bonterra – Merlot – 14.1% alcohol  SRP $16
sample for my review consideration

Bonterra has been one of my favorite brands for years because they were early to farm organically and we wanted to support these practices. They’ve continued to be a beloved brand of my husband and I because they continue to do the right thing– and they are also making wine biodynamically.  Today they proudly post that they are made with organic grapes and they have the CCOF emblem on the label also.

Color: Medium to light density, kind of a raspberry color

Nose: Raspberry, fruity and expressive, rose petals, like

grandma’s kitchen while she is canning: rose perfume and fruit.

Palate: Fresh plum, cherry tart with baking spices. Tons of bright acidity and fresh fruit. Earth, slate,  and on the back of the palate, gravel with a rich yet clean finish.

Paring: The wine went so well with our dried apricot stilton that we’d love it as a great dessert pairing. The wine was fabulous with the white bean crostini. The sweetness of the tomato, and the creaminess of the beans went fantastically with this wonderful fresh, light fruity wine. With the crispelle the wine was beautifully elevated. The nutmeg in the dish combined with the fruity components in the wine were ideal, and a wonderful choice for vegetarians. With the tuna, it was also beautiful: the wine plays with the crusted herbs beautifully.

2016 – Seven Hills Winery – Merlot – 14.4% alcohol SRP $25
sample for my review consideration
85% Merlot, 11% Cab Sauv, 4% Cab Franc

While not organic or biodynamic, Seven Hills Winery “values environmental stewardship to protect the future. For the past 15 years, we have practiced sustainable agriculture in order to be responsible guardians of the land, and currently hold LIVE and Salmon Safe certifications for our estate SHW Founding Vineyard.”

Color: It’s cloudy which makes us think that it is unfined and unfiltered. Dense and rich. Deep plum with a fuchsia rim.

Nose: The wine is still closed in a bit even thought it is a 2016. Herbs and mint, subtle licorice or fennel, some salinity, black pepper, sasparilla, root beer.

Palate: Excellent complexity for the price. Most of the complexity is up front and drops off fairly quickly at the back of the palate. There is bright acidity, a hint of vanilla, mint, chocolate mint. licorice, root beer.

Pairing: We had a seared tuna crusted with fennel, rosemary, garlic; the herbs in the crust brings out lovely herbs in the wine that are present but  underlying when it is not paired with food.

As I’ve written often, I love tuna and Washington Merlot. This wine is no exception.

There is such a richness that can take on the bold flavors of the crusted tuna, and marry so well with the fruit and herbs present in the wine. The mouthfeel with the tuna and the wine is so beautiful. The nutmeg and the complexity of the crespelles with this wine take on another wonderful dimention to the both when paired together, brings out a sweetness to the wine, reinforces the salinity to the finish, and enhances the nose.

On a subsequent evening, I paired the wine with a New York steak. Ah yes, rich red meat and rich red wine — so satisfying. The steak really brought out the herbal notes.

This is really nice merlot for the price. This is much richer than the other two we sampled, but then again, it is $10 more expensive. For the money, it really delivers. It does not require food, but works really well with food.



All told we received 12 bottles of Merlot for #MerlotMe this October. So far we’ve written about seven in three blog posts which means we have a few more to share with you sometime soon!

To look forward to– Merlot from Napa!

A vertical from Duckhorn, one from Markham, and another from Pahmeyer which we will write about along with their Chardonnay and Red Blend.

Stay tuned for more Merlot on Merlot Day Thursday Nov. 7!


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