It’s time to give merit where merit is due: much maligned MERLOT.
Well, maligned about 15 years go. That is one seriously long lasting hangover!
People in the know KNOW that merlot is the way to go if you’re looking for a mellow companion to a heavy hitting meal. From lamb to duck to salmon to tuna steaks to prime rib, MERLOT marries fruit with herbal notes to make your meal merry.
Since 2016, I’ve been participating in #MerlotMe for Merlot Month (annually in October) and in Merlot Day, which is today, Nov. 7.
That’s a lot of Merlot for Me! (See below for links!)
Not that I’m complaining. Not one drop.
Especially since the grand finale this year is a vertical of Duckhorn’s Napa Valley Merlot.
How did I end up with a vertical of the good stuff? Have I been hoarding it?
Nope. A common practice is to send two bottles of a wine to media. This way, if something happens or the bottle is corked (tainted with TCA which makes the wine smell and taste like dirty socks or old cardboard or worse), the writer has a spare bottle and the winery doesn’t have to resend the wine.
These spare samples can also be seen as spoils. It’s not like I’m making a bunch of money as a wine writer as I do not get paid to write about these wines, I just get sent free wine. (I know, FREE WINE! I’m not complaining here, really, but as we know NOTHING is free. A lot of time goes into these posts which average 1500 words– this one is nearly 2k!).
So having a spare bottle that I DON’T HAVE TO WRITE ABOUT is a good thing. A really good thing. Ask any influencer– or the family members of an influencer — it gets old to be told — STOP! DON’T TOUCH! I haven’t taken the pictures yet. (Did you know on press trips with a group NO ONE takes a bite until everyone has gotten all the photos they want?)
But I don’t do that. I’m sure Sue would love it if I sent the “spare” wines home with her, but I keep them as I never know when the occasion might arise unless someone designates a bottle to go to her (and that does happen!)
In this case, this year, a three year vertical of Duckhorn Napa Valley Merlot materializes. Like this year because I set aside the “spare” bottles of Merlot.
About their Napa Valley Merlot, they say it’s “a complex blend of several individual vineyard lots, incorporating fruit from our estate vineyards and from top independent growers throughout the Napa Valley. The final wine is a rich and cohesive expression of the entire Napa Valley, reflecting the varied microclimates and soils of this unique appellation.”
Duckhorn specializes in Merlot, and their Three Palms Merlot has won many accolades. We knew these wines would be special, as we’ve tasted and written about them before, and we knew we wanted to do a special meal, so when I saw lamb shanks on sale and heard that Sue had lots of ripe pomegranates on her tree, we knew the direction we were going for our Merlot Day meal. Because I had a bottle of Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc set aside that I’d purchased on sale, we opened that too.
- 2017 Duckhorn Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley
special 40th anniversary bottling
- 2017 Duckhorn Vineyards Merlot Napa Valley
special 40th anniversary bottling
- 2016 Duckhorn Vineyards Merlot, Napa Valley
- 2015 Duckhorn Vineyards Merlot, Napa Valley
A BRIEF HISTORY: In 1976, Dan and Margaret Duckhorn founded Duckhorn Vineyards, one of the first 40 Napa Valley wineries. Duckhorn Vineyards celebrated their 40th harvest in Napa Valley with a special 40th Anniversary Harvest logo on all 2017 vintage Duckhorn Vineyards wines, including two that we tasted. In 2003, winemaker Renée Ary joined Duckhorn and she was named head winemaker in 2014.
- Cheese Board
- Pomegranate Pear Salad
- Lamb shanks with pomegranate gravy, roasted vegetables, mashed potatoes
Sue decided to follow the flavors when developing the meal. She stayed with the pomegranate and the rosemary flavor profiles throughout the meal, and it worked. We learned that the pomegranate fruit was a a perfect companion with the meal. Fresh, juiced, or roasted. they all worked. And, to only came to pass because Sue had a wealth of pomegranates that needed to be harvested before the rodent population enjoyed all of them to themselves.
If you could smell what we posted for the dinner, you would be in heaven with these wines. The meat, the pomegranate, and the rosemary were so fragrant, and incredible with wines this evening.
2017 Duckhorn Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley
ABV 13.5%; SRP $28
purchased on sale at Vons
Color: Very pale yellow, pale straw, clear
Nose: Minerals and grass, tuberrose, gardenia, citrus flower, a hint of peach, like a bowl of fresh peaches, little bit of cardamom. Pleasing, pleasant, not overwhelming. Subtle complex nose.
Palate: Clean, fresh, nice roundness from the oak without being overly oaky, nice roundness from the semillion. A wine that can be enjoyed on its own, but should carry on nicely with the first course of a meal. Turkish apricot on the finish.
Pairing: No surprise, really nice with goat cheese on a sourdough baguette. It makes the wine super sweet. Almost like dessert the two together. Great with the rosemary crusted almonds. Sue thought of a goat cheese ball crusted with the rosemary nuts. I was with her all the way. May be a new recipe that she needs to explore. The wine is so clean and handles rich, herbal characteristics. As a first course our salad worked really well with the wine. The pear works so well with the wine. The pear in the salad brings out stone fruits in the wine. We both loved the elements of the wine with the salad. The blue cheese, the pear, the pomegranate seeds, and the chopped rosemary nuts worked so well.
If you are going to have a gathering, this is a great greeter wine or for a starter course.
“Please God let us have gatherings…”
2017 Duckhorn Vineyards Merlot Napa Valley
ABV 14.5%; SRP $56
80% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2.5% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot, 0.5% Malbec
Oak Profile: 100% French oak with 40% new, 60% neutral
In 2017, abundant winter rains replenished the water table following several years of drought. A week-long heat event kicked off harvest during the last week of August. Cooler weather in September allowed extra hang time. Fruit was harvested throughout September and into early October, with high quality ripe grapes leading to “plush, polished and wonderfully complex wines” according to the website.
Color: Ruby, ruby plum, medium plus density,
Nose: Plum, cherry, cherry snuff, lots of fruit, sage, pine, eucalyptus, predominately sage, black pepper
Palate: Nice intensity, this is not your mild merlot, meaty, passionate, bold yet structured tannins, nice ripe fruit, cherry and plum, baking spices, sarsaparilla. This wine could be poured before your main meal for a nice few sips, but you will be yearning for the meal to come. Very pleasing wine.
No smoke taint, no smokey smell, just think, fruit, fruit, lucious fruit…
Pairing: Fresh and fruity, loves the salt cured olives, olive tepenade would be a perfect accompaniment with the wine. Fabulous with the rosemary nuts. Loved the rich blue cheese. The wine is bright enough to cut through the richness of the cheese. it was not the best with the ginger mango stilton preferring more savory salty combinations. Rosemary hazelnuts could not be any better with another wine. Fantastic with the pepper crusted Toscano, really the perfect combination. The pepper brings out the baking spices in the wine while the creaminess in the cheese highlights the fruit in the wine. Great Thanksgiving salad with the wine. The blue cheese gives it heft, the pomegranate gives it some heft. The rosemary nuts bring out the herbs. So many textures in the salad. Sue thought the gravy might have been a bit much for the wine. But I slathered my shank in gravy and did not mind it at all.
2016 Duckhorn Vineyards Merlot, Napa Valley
ABV 14.5%; SRP $54
Color: Ruby with a garnet rim, medium plus density
Nose: Baking spices, herbs, fruit, cloves, very clovey, cloves in pouperi with dried roses, clove in a cherry pie, cherry pipe tobacco. Fresh cherry pie out of the oven, cherry cola, Dr. Pepper. As the nose opens up there is vanilla. Sue said, “Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream” and I agreed. Calling all Dead Heads. The herbs are on the back of the palate for me. Cherry and mint. For Sue they were up front. I wanted food with this wine. Sue wanted to continue sipping. This wine was completely in her wheel house.
Palate: For Sue it was all about the herbs, mint, sage, eucalyptus. For me it was all about the fruit, cherry, cherry pie, with a bit of mint at the back of the palate.
Pairing: Fantastic with our ginger mango stilton. It loved the sweet and savory characteristics of the cheese. Both the wine and the cheese are elevated together. Is this the definitive wine moment for this wine???? Nice with the red leischtershire. Loved the rosemary herbed nuts. I loved the wine with the pepper crusted Toscano. “Damn it that is so good” The lamb shanks with the pomegranate gravy was so decadent and rich to go with the wine. Loves the pomegranate vinegarette and the blue cheese combination. The Brussel sprouts were a bit bitter for the wine. They are alright with a scoop of potatoes, a bit of meat ant the gravy all combined together, but just the roast veggies on their own fight with the wine. According to Sue this wine went best with the Brussel sprouts.
2015 – Duckhorn Vineyards – Napa Valley – Merlot
ABV 14.5%; SRP $52
Color: Ruby with a garnet rim medium plus density
Nose: Cherry fruit and herbs, this is very herbaceous, cherry pipe tobacco, regular tobacco, cigar box, as it opens up the herbal qualities recede and the fruit steps up.
Palate: The oak is nicely integrated, there is a decent amount of fruit and herbs. This wine could continue to lay down even longer. Sue found it to be a very smooth operator, and was not disappointed that we opened it up tonight for this planned menu.
Pairing: OMG, so great with blue cheese, fantastic with the stilton, fantastic with the red lechester, bringing out flavors of caramelized nuts and fruit. Sue picked up some Crazy about rosemary nuts at Trader Joe’s that went so perfectly with the wine. rich pomegranate, rosemary gravy is cut and enhanced by the herbal fruit forward wine. Completely balanced, the wine and the food.
2020 Merlot Me posts:
- Longboard’s Merlot
- Sonoma’s Selby Merlot
- Columbia Valley’s L’Ecole No. 41 Merlot
- Napa’s Peju Merlot
- Napa’s Flora Springs special Halloween bottling of Merlot and their regular Merlot
Here’s previous #MerlotMe and Merlot Day coverage:
- French and California merlot under $30
- three merlot under $30 from CA, WA, and Chile
- two merlot from Washington’s L’Ecole No. 41
- Markham’s for Merlot Day
- Washington #MerlotMe Paired with Ahi Tuna and Salmon for #WinePW
- #MerlotMe: Go Surf or Turf with WA’s Nine Hats
- #Halloween Pulled Pork and #MerlotMe for the WIN!
- Octpber. 29, 2018 #MerlotMe Napa: Duckhorn and La Jota w/ Flat Iron Steak, Blackberries
- Nov. 7, 2018 #MerlotMe on Merlot Day 2018
Happy Merlot Day!
How will YOU #MerlotMe?
PS In my countdown to Post #1000, this is 997!! Now to determine what should be 998, 999, and 1000!