West Coast “Bordeaux” Blends with Beef Bourguignon #Winophiles

West Coast wines made with Bordeaux based grapes

What’s your favorite red wine? 

My dad loved mellow Merlot.

Many people choose Cabernet Sauvignon. 

If I asked Sue, she might say Cabernet Franc.

What do these three grapes have in common?

They are all from Bordeaux, France, and are some of the most well-known and widely planted grapes in the world.

In fact, most of the wines you probably drink every day are made from grapes that originated from various parts of France. They are so common they are known as “international” grapes. Just take a quick look at the first eight entries on this chart:

In California in 2018, the most planted red grape was Cabernet Sauvignon with 91,800 acres (37,000 ha) (source); in the US, it’s also the most planted grape with 101,300 acres (41,000 ha). yes that’s right — if you compared with Franc and did the math, the US grows twice as much Cabernet Sauvignan as France does.

Merlot comes in at fourth with  39,800 acres (16,100 ha) in California and third in the US with  51,900 acres (21,000 ha). There’s twice as much merlot grown in France than in the US.

What’s the most planted grape in United States — red or white?

Chardonnay is the most planted white grape in California with 93,400 acres (37,800 ha) and it’s the most planted grape red or white in the US.

No wonder these are the grapes that Americans know and love! 

This month the French Winophiles focus on French grapes grown around the world. While we often focus on French grapes and how they are expressed in different regions around the world (for example Malbec, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc,) we thought it would be fun to feature what’s known as Bordeaux blends from grapes grown in three regions on the West Coast, Washington, Sonoma, and Lodi, because that way we could talk about MORE French grapes!

We love blends, and It just so happened that we had some older vintages in the cellar to sample as well– what a treat! People talk about putting French Bordeaux in the cellar; we certainly found that these three benefited as well. 

Word to the wise: Cellar some West Coast red blends! 


  • 2015 Mercer Sharp Sisters “Red Blend” Horse Heaven Hills, Columbia Valley  AVA
  • 2015 1849 Wine “Triumph” Sonoma County 
  • 2011 Cantara Cellars “Left Bank Cuvee” Lodi 
  • Samples provided for review consideration; no other compensation provided.

Menu: Beef Bourguignon

In addition to a cheese board with blue cheese, truffle brie, goat cheese with fig, pate, and prosciutto,  I suggested to Sue that we pair these wines with some sort of Bordeaux beef stew. As the most famous is better known as Beef Bourguignon, and I had both bacon and mushrooms in the fridge, that’s the direction we took for our pairing.

Sue’s instant pot recipe for this classic dish follows.

Sue sautéed the bacon in a skillet, then cooked the mushrooms in that pan, and finally, cooked up fresh chard from her garden in the skillet for a wow collection of umami and rich flavors that also went well with the wines and provided color and texture to the plate. Sue ladled the Beef Bourguignon onto mashed red baby potatoes

2015 Mercer Sharp Sisters “Red Blend” Horse Heaven Hills, Columbia Valley  AVA
ABV 14.1%
SRP $20

The Mercers began growing grapes in Southeast Washington State in 1972, the first to plant vinifera in the Horse Heaven Hills.  Today they are still family owned and operated.

“’Respect the land’ has always been our creed, and the land has sustained us for five generations,” say The Mercers; sustainability and conservation are the single most important factors in their.

Only 2400 cases were made of this delightful and affordable blend of 29% Cabernet sauvignon, 27% Syrah, 18% merlot, 14% Petit Verdot, 10% Grenache, and 2% Carignane formulated by Jessica Munnell that checks off two boxes: Washington Wine Month and Women’s History Month. While she’s moved on, the 2017 release blends 53% Syrah, 41% Merlot, 6% Malbec and was made under the direction of Jeremy Santo. 

Read more about Mercer and former winemaker Jessica Munnell here.

Color: Medium density, cherry cola, garnet rim

Nose: Cherry, cherry cola, menthol, cherry ricola, cherry pipe tobacco, rich soil, gasoline, very inviting.

Palate:  Mouthwatering, easily enjoyable, everything flows together making a nice easy going wine. Nice fruit, cherry, blueberry, raspberry on the finish along with silty soil, leather, tobacco, rich tannins. 

Pairing: This a wine that could enhance a simple pizza or lasagne meal as well as a surf and turf meal. Blue cheese is this wine’s friend oh so amazing. Hand over a blue cheese buffalo burger. fights with the truffle brie and the pate. Stick to the blue. The bacon in the beef stew rocks with this wine. The wine loves the chard as well but add a few slices of bacon in the sautéed to cook it over the top.. We cared less about the potatoes, we just wanted the kale and the stew with the bacon. I imagined a BLT with this wine. All about the bacon!!!! 

1849 wine “Triumph red blend

2015 1849 Wine “Triumph” Sonoma County 
ABV 15.2%
SRP $45

According to the 1849 Wine company, blends embody “the American philosophy that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and together we’ll triumph.”

Adorning the unusual, squat bottle is a dramatic label by Los Angeles artist Saber. In his interpretation of the American flag, he “represents an America that is strong & powerful, resilient & resolute, adamant & resolved. The beauty of America is in the fibers of our history, our diverse cultural foundation and our forward-thinking progressive nature.”

This vintage leads with juicy Petite Sirah followed by Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Verdot, Cab Franc. Barrel Aged for a year in French, Hungarian, and American Oak, with 20% new, 80% used, and bottled in April 2017.

Color: Medium density, ruby, rose rim, pretty vibrant color 

Nose:  Flint, raspberry, chaparral, rhubarb, earth, loamy soil, blue fruit, sandalwood, amber, flower bouquet. For as high as the alcohol is, it doesn’t come through on the nose.

Palate: Tart cherry fruit, rich in flavor, cherry, raspberry, mint, ripe tannins, nice structure, fresh ripe fruit, the wine is easy to enjoy.

Pairing: Think filet mignon with blue cheese, but could easily carry through to the end of the meal with the right dessert like a berry galette or cheese plate. We tried it with goat cheese topped with a cognac fig jam on a baguette; what a wonderful pairing.  Think cured meats, spicy cured meats, Italian cold cuts. Very nice with prosciutto, think prosciutto pizza with a white sauce with arugula on top. It would also be great with a high end meatloaf. We tried it with blue cheese and were not far off the mark; what an amazing companion that brings caramel richness to each other.

For this wine, it is all about the beef in the stew. While excellent with the earthiness of the potatoes and the chard, it was really all about the gravy. It loved the tomato richness. Brings out the pepper in the chard, I also taste the rich olive oil in the dish. The is such a wonderful pair. Caramelized umami goodness is so wonderful with the wine. 

We have another red blend from 1849 and we look forward to sampling it soon!

2011 Cantara Left Bank Cuvee

2011 Cantara Cellars “Left Bank Cuvee” Lodi 
ABV 13.1% 
SRP about $40; sold out 

Owner and winemaker Mike Brown at Cantara makes wine from Lodi and only reds except a Chardonnay from his family’s fruit. In addition to blends like this one, he makes wine with Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache,  Malbec, Petite Sirah, Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo, and of course that Lodi darling, Zinfandel.

A few years ago I spent an afternoon tasting and talking with co-owner Chris Brown which I wrote up for Women’s History Month. From that article: 

“Wine is one of those businesses where you don’t see cranky people,” Chris says, “People are 99% happy coming here. They’re here because they want to be here.” She also appreciates that “People really want to be educated, they are hungry for your knowledge. Wine is such a wonderful business.”

Her favorite aspect is talking with people: “I’ve solved many problems for folks; a lot of problems get solved around this bar,” Chris says with a smile. “You don’t get  a lot of social life when you’re in your own business and your husband and son are in the business. People once they’ve been coming here as long as most have been it’s like family, like your friends come and visit you all the time.”

These days, they more involved with Flat Fish Brewing and lots of events, but I bet they get back to making more wine soon! If you stop by their tasting room on the weekend, you just might see my writing partner Sue Hill since she works there two or three days a month on the weekend. Chris gave Sue this wine a few years ago, and it’s one of her favorites so she volunteered to share it in this post. She even left the bottle with me! Amazing how well it has stood the test of time– it held up for several days after we opened it until I had a chance to finish it!

This blended wine is composed of four Bordeaux origin grapes: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. 

Color:  Medium body, nicely translucent, garnet with a mauve rim

Nose: Cherries and herbs, cherry pipe tobacco and menthol, vanilla, 

Palate: Tart cherry, ripe cherry, still a ton of fruit for a 10 year old wine. Fresh herbs, fresh mint. There is a lot of vibrancy in this wine. Smooth tannins. Herbs de Provence, nicely light and bright. Tannins and acidity are there, but not overwhelming. 

Pairing: Did well with the truffle brie, the wine enjoyed the creaminess of the cheese and brought out nice fruit notes in the wine. With the pate it brought out the liver characteristics and wasn’t great when we went back to the wine. Think pepper steak with this wine. This wine loves the lemon thyme in the beef stew. Fantastic with the sautéed chard. You can taste the salt, you can taste the pepper, you can taste the green. Every single element in the meal stands out and then is integrated when you go back to the wine. This would be fabulous with Sue’s squash chard cream dish that she makes for special occasions. 

After teaching all day then making this amazing meal, Sue sits at the other end of my long table and takes notes about this 2011 Cantara blend.

Instant Pot Beef Bourguignon



  • 6 slices thick cut bacon cut into 1/2 inch squares/strips
  • 3 lbs beef stew meat cut into chunks
  • 1 shallot
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 small bag baby carrots
  • 2 T flour
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 2 cubes beef bullion
  • 3oz to 6oz Tomato paste
  • 1 750 ml bottle red wine
  • 3 to 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pound sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 T olive oil


  • Turn instant pot to saute mode and cook bacon till browned stirring occasionally. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside
  • Brown beef chunks in bacon grease in small batches. 
  • When the last batch is browned throw in shallots and 3 cloves chopped garlic and the bacon saute 1 to 2 minutes longer. Sprinkle flour over into the mixture 1 T at a time and stir to mix. Return all the beef chunks to the pan and stir into the mixture.
  • Add the beef stock, beef bullion, wine, tomato paste, carrots, thyme, and bayleaf into the pot. Set on manual high for 60 minutes.
  • If the sauce is too liquid at the end of the cooking cycle, remove the liquid from the stew and place in a sauce pan. Add 1 to 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch with 1/4 cup water and mix. Add to boiling liquid to thicken then add back to the pot. 
  • 15 minutes prior to serving saute sliced mushroom in olive oil with 1 clove chopped garlic till brown. Sprinkle over, or stir into beef stew before serving.

Check out the contributions of my fellow Winophiles:

You’re invited to the French Winophiles live Twitter chat this morning (Sat 3/20) on French grapes grown outside of France. Starts at 8 am Pacific time. Follow the #Winophiles hashtag to join in the fun!  

  • 8:00 am
  • Q1 Bienvenue to the #Winophiles’ “French grapes outside of France” chat. From where are you tweeting? Introduce yourself and share a link to your blog, if you have one. If you are just visiting or are a wine producer, welcome, welcome!
  • 8:05 am
  • Q2 Do you have a favorite French wine grape? Have you ever tried that grape from elsewhere in the world? #Winophiles
  • 8:10 am
  • Q3 What was the first French wine grape you discovered? What were your impressions, if you remember? #Winophiles
  • 8:15 am
  • Q4 What’s the most unusual French grape you’ve discovered outside of France? Was this grape new to you? Did you source it online or in person? #Winophiles 
  • 8:20 am
  • Q5 Tell us about the French grape you are highlighting for this chat. Where is it grown? Were you surprised to find it in this location? #Winophiles
  • 8:25 am
  • Q6 What can you share about the producer of this French grape grown outside of France? Anything interesting about the story? #Winophiles
  • 8:30 am
  • Q7 How does your wine compare to one produced in its French place of origin? Similarities? Differences? #Winophiles
  • 8:35 am
  • Q8 These  chats always make me hungry. What about you? If you paired your wine, please please share some details or drop a link to your blogpost! Did you go with French food or opt for something closer to where the grape was actually grown? #Winophiles
  • 8:40 am
  • Q9 Where else do you plan to look for French grapes outside of France? What else would you like to taste? Any recommended wine regions? #Winophiles
  • 8:45 am
  • Q10 Is there any downside to growing native grapes outside of their homeland? Does it alter the integrity (sense of place) of the wine? #Winophiles 
  • 8:50 am
  • Q11 Do you have any final thoughts or new questions for the group? #Winophiles
  • 8:55 am
  • Q12 Any comments/questions from visitors? Share a thought, comment, question! #Winophiles
  • 9:00 am
  • Thanks to all the #Winophiles bloggers and guests for joining this exploration of French grapes outside of France. Next month we take a look at organic wines from the Loire with Gwendolyn from @ArtPredator. Read the invitation

Yes we are hosting next month and you are invited to join us for an Earth Month special look at organic, sustainable, natural, and biodynamic wines from the Garden of France, the Loire! Read more here.


10 thoughts on “West Coast “Bordeaux” Blends with Beef Bourguignon #Winophiles

  1. How joyful to have these aging red wines in your cellar. The wines sound delicious and the pairings, divine as always. I find the truffle pairings interesting, I have recently had truffled Marcona almonds and they are hit and miss in ways that I found a little unpredictable.

    Liked by 1 person

Please Comment! I'd love to hear from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s