October Means #MerlotMe Paired With Instant Pot Bacon Mushroom Merlot Chicken #WinePW


October means #MerlotMe time — and here on Wine Predator we are having a Merlot-palooza! No Sideways looks at Merlot around here! So far we have harvested a case of Merlot wine samples to taste and pair, and along with my fellow wine pairing weekend group of wine writers (see below), we hope to inspire you to harvest a bottle or two of merlot for your own table!  

So go ahead and #MERLOTME!

MerlotMe with These Pairings

  • Course 1: Salad 
    2017 Nine Hats Merlot Columbia Valley

    paired with grilled blue fin tuna belly with herbs of Provence on greens

  • Course 2: Soup
    2018 St. Francis Merlot Sonoma Valley

    paired with roast red pepper olive focaccia and vegan winter squash soup with fresh ginger and coconut milk 

  • Course 3: Main
    2018 Duckhorn Merlot Napa Valley

    paired with Instant Pot Bacon Mushroom Merlot Chicken on mashed organic Yukon gold potatoes

  • Course 4: Dessert 
    2020 Ironstone Vineyards Merlot Lodi

    paired with Old Amsterdam Gouda and fall fruit lemon curd tart

NOTE: all wines provided for my review consideration with no other compensation; views belong to Sue Hill and myself.

Merlot from Washington’s Nine Hats

2017 Nine Hats Merlot Columbia Valley
ABV 15.2%
SRP $25

We’ve written about Nine Hats before, and once again I think this wine totally over delivers for the price point.

Blend: 75% Merlot 11% Malbec 10% Cabernet Franc 4% Petit Verdot aged 18 months in 70% neutral, 30% new oak barrels.

Color: Ruby, plum, a bit garnet around the rim

Aroma: Very rich nose, earthy, plum, rhubarb, pomegranate, violets, forest floor, nice light herbal notes, 

Palate: Cherry, mint, dry tannins, big bodied wine, cherry ricola finish, lovely texture, 2017 is plenty youthful, plenty smooth, mineral finish, slate, fine grained silt, 

Pairing: Great wine for pizza, burgers, rib eye steak, rich flavorful foods. Tried the wine with Old Amsterdam aged gouda and it was fantastic together. The wine was also great with the elderberry tart, neither were too sweet and worked so lovely together. 

St Francis and Squash Soup

2018 St. Francis Merlot Sonoma Valley
ABV 14.9%
SRP $40 (for the 2015)

A certified California sustainable winery and vineyards, St Francis celebrates 50 years with special anniversary tastings and events in 2021. It’s been awhile since I’ve written about St Francis; I’m definitely a fan of their zinfandel, and this wine has a very classy looking label.

Color: Very cloudy, unfined and unfiltered, it even leaves texture on the glass, ruby, blood red, mauveish rim

Aroma: Pomegranate, raspberry, minerals, florals, potpourri, carnation, dried rose petals, violets, 

Palate: Very cherry on the palate, sweet oak, tannins, subtle herbal quality mainly on the finish, fruit up front, minerals then lingers into the sunset with herbal notes. 

Pairing: Curried ginger coconut winter squash soup, super good, the soup and the wine worked so nicely together, not just because they were both so yummy. There are layers of flavor, depth of flavor and character in the soup that works well with the wine, because of the rich earthiness in the wine. The bright fruit contrasts with the rich squash. Both have a rich sweetness to them with out being sweet. The earthen elements of both the soup and the wine, compliment each other nicely. Great soup for thanksgiving, or a cold night beside the fire. 

Duckhorn 2018 Merlot Napa

2018 Duckhorn Merlot Napa Valley
ABV 14.5%
SRP $56

We’ve been fortunate to have written about Duckhorn’s merlot for five years now; check out these pairings:

Duckhorn Vertical with Pomegranate Rosemary Braised Lamb Shanks (2020)
Duckhorn (2019)
Duckhorn with Flat Iron Steak and Blueberries (2018)
Duckhorn with Duck (2017)
Duckhorn (2016)

Blend: 82% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1.4% Cabernet Franc, 0.4% Petit Verdot, 0.2% Malbec aged 15 months in 100% French oak of which 40% was new.

Color: Looks a lot like pomegranate juice in the glass, 

Aroma: Roses, and cherries, and herbs, not quite cherry jam, but fresh cherries, and baking spices, a fresh warm berry tart, sandalwood, amber, plum, pine resin, 

Palate: Delicious now, but lay me down a while, big grippy tannins, very structured, tart bright fruit, cool herbal finish, almost minty, nice refreshing finish, making you yearn for a bit more wine. 

Pairing: Instant Pot, Mushroom, Merlot, Bacon, Chicken. The smokey rich bacon is perfect for this rich earthy complex wine. The richness of the dish tames the grippy tannins. The refreshing finish cleanses the palate leaving it ready for what is to come. This easy crowd pleaser of a meal works perfectly together. 

2020 Ironstone Vineyards Merlot Lodi 
ABV 14.5%
SRP $14

While the Kautz family began farming in the Lodi region in 1926,  it wasn’t until 1990 that the family completed the Ironstone Winery, a replica of an 1859 Gold Stamp Mill which I visited in 2016, and I’ll tell you, it is quite the experience. In addition a tasting room, deli, extensive wine cave, conference rooms, wedding facilities, a LARGE outdoor Amphitheatre where I saw a country music concert, plus 14.5 acres of landscaped gardens, there’s a Heritage Museum and Jewelry Shoppe which contains artifacts from the gold rush era, as well as the largest specimen of Crystalline Gold Leaf –  44 pounds!

For under $15, this is a very nice wine. 

Blend (2019): 90% Merlot, 7% Petite Verdot, 3% RubiRed

Color: Bright and pretty, cloudy, rich in depth, Santa Rosa Plum, fushia rim,

Aroma: All about fruit and flowers, cherries, plum, roses, cherry cordial, chocolate,

once there is food on the palate, there is more mint and herbs on the nose. 

Palate: All about the fruit, cherries, coconut, mocha, the finish has mocha, more mocha and then more, this is a very easy drinking wine. 

Pairing: Elderberry, pommegranate, apple, lemon curd tart with Amsterdam aged Gouda. Sue felt that we nailed this pairing. The fresh tart fruit was a perfect combination for this fruit forward wine. I liked thetartness of the elderberries with the rich wine. both the elderberries and the wine were nicely earthy together. While the lemon curd might be a bit too tart for some, it is what adds a bit of sweetness to the berries and grounds the wine nicely. 


Bacon and Mushroom Merlot Chicken
with Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes and Gravy

Serves 4


  • 1-2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped bacon, ends and pieces, or lardons (about 3-4 slices bacon or 3 ounces or 85 grams), 
  • 4-6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs with bones, trimmed 
  • 1 cup (250 ml) Merlot (we used the Ironstone) 
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 piece bay leaf
  • 1 pinch each sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 T (45 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 pound (250 grams) oyster mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 T all-purpose flour
  • Buttered Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes for serving 


  1. Using the Sauté function, heat 1 T olive oil in the Instant Pot, add chopped bacon, and cook until browned, about 2 minutes. Remove bacon to a paper towel. plate. Leave 3 tablespoons of rendered fat.
  2. Dry the chicken thighs thoroughly with paper towels and brown them in the Instant Pot, about 7 to 8 minutes. Remove chicken. Turn off Sauté function.
  3. Add wine and deglaze; scrape browned bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Add garlic, tomato paste, thyme, and bay leaf. Season lightly with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Return bacon and chicken thighs to pot, along with any juices. Arrange chicken skin-side down to absorb more color from the wine.
  4. Cook on high pressure for 25 minutes. Manually release the steam. Transfer the chicken to a plate, leaving the liquid in the pot. Discard the bay leaf.
  5. While the chicken cooks, cut Yukon gold potatoes into chunks and place in a pot covered with cold water. Bring water to a boil and simmer on low for 15-20 minutes until potatoes are tender. Drain water. Add a knob of butter, 2 T of half n half, and mash or beat to blend. 
  6. While the chicken cooks, make a beurre manié. in a medium skillet, melt 2 tablespoons (30 grams) of the butter over medium-high heat until foamy. When foam subsides, add mushrooms and cook, shaking the pan frequently, until mushrooms are tender and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. In a small bowl, mash the flour into the remaining 1 tablespoon (15 grams) butter until it forms a smooth paste.
  7. Using the Sauté function, bring the cooking liquid to a simmer. With a wire whisk, beat in the beurre manié until the sauce becomes glossy and coats the back of a spoon. If the sauce becomes too thick, add 1 T of stock or Merlot. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more salt and pepper as desired.
  8. Return the chicken, along with any juices from the plate, and mushrooms to the pressure cooker and heat them through in the sauce. 


Check out our 10/9/21 Twitter Chat by searching for #WinePW or #MerlotMe.  

More #MerlotMe!

    1. 2012 Ridge Estate Merlot + Reverse Sear Ribeye Steak by Martin on ENOFYLZ Wine Blog
    2. Bonterra and Creamy Lasagna Soup by Terri on Our Good Life
    3. California Dreamin’ for #MerlotMe Month, Part I by Linda on My Full Wine Glass
    4. Celebrate #MerlotMe with a Wine that Hits the Mark by Supporting Veterans by Lori on Exploring the Wine Glass
    5. Experiments with Salmon and Merlot by Nichole on Somm’s Table
    6. Ground Beef and Kale Recipe with #MerlotMe Wine by David on Cooking Chat
    7. I Melt for Merlot and Chocolate by Liz on What’s in That Bottle?
    8. Kicking off #MerlotMe with 2 Rutherford Hill Merlots and Decadent Burgers with Chocolate! by Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles
    9. Merguez Sausages and a Debut #MerlotMe Wine from Gürbüz by Andrea at The Quirky Cork
    10. Merlot with Chicken in a Mushroom Wine Sauce by Jennifer from Vino Travels
    11. #MerlotMe and Meaty Asian Sandwich by Pinny on Chinese Food & Wine Pairings
    12. Mushroom Madness Paired with Merlot byJane for Always Ravenous
    13. October Means #MerlotMe Paired With Instant Pot Bacon Mushroom Merlot Chicken here on Wine Predator
    14. One of the Oldest Foods on Earth + 2019 Bonterra Organic Merlot by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
    15. Tri-Tip Steak and Duckhorn, a #MerlotMe Classic by Jeff for Food Wine Click!
    16. Won’t You Please #MerlotMe? by Wendy on A Day in the Life on the Farm

Looking for more #MerlotMe events? 

Wednesday, Oct. 14, 4 pm PST
Magicians of Merlot: with Mark Oldman 

Mark Oldman’s “Magicians of Merlot” virtual class on October 14th, will be a masterclass on fine Merlot and joined by three Napa-based magicians of the grape:

  • Duckhorn Vineyard’s Vice President GM Neil Bernardi,
  • Markham Winemaker Kimberlee Nicholls,  
  • Rutherford Hill Winemaker Marisa Taylor.

Bring your own Merlot or taste along with the exact wines that Mark and the winemakers will be drinking and discussing. Register herehttps://www.bevinars.com/product/magicians-of-merlot/ Purchase the wines: https://bit.ly/3AWzSMP

Thursday, Oct. 21, 5 pm PST
Merlot Rising: #TasteLive with Karen MacNeil

Celebrate with three of Napa Valley’s leading ladies of Merlot in a virtual tasting lead by Karen MacNeil, author of The Wine Bible.

  • Markham Winemaker Kimberlee Nicholls,
  • Peju Winemaker Sara Fowler 
  • Rutherford Hill Winemaker Marisa Taylor

Register for the Zoom tasting here: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/1016310458895/WN_09xeU3LSRvmx8wpIviNZIg Purchase the tasting wines: https://bit.ly/3EZzXS6

Wednesday, Oct. 27, 5 pm PST
Merlot Masters with Coravin founder Greg Lambrecht

Coravin Founder Greg Lambrecht explores the mysteries of Merlot and its capabilities for aging with Duckhorn, Markham, L’Ecole Nov. 41 and Peju winemakers in celebration of October Merlot Month #MerlotMe.
Register here: https://bit.ly/3AiaWOA
Wednesday, Oct. 27 7 pm PST
Stars of Merlot wth Learnaboutwine.com’s Ian Blackburn
Learnaboutwine.com invites you to #MerlotMe with winemakers or proprietors tasting:
  • Sullivan Estate,
  • Rutherford Hill,
  • Duckhorn Vineyards,
  • Arietta,
  • Seavey Vineyards,
  • Truchard Vineyards 
  • St. Francis Winery 

Tasting flight or SEVEN bottles delivered to your door. Register herehttps://winecloudinc.com/pages/stars-of-merlot

For more #MerlotMe, go to www.merlotme.com

Be sure to join #WinePW in November as we explore Paso Robles with Lori Budd. 

If you can’t wait, check out our visit to Paso Robles area winery Ambyth which we visited recently for Slow Wine Guide. This is one of Sue’s favorite areas; it will be hard to decide what wines to feature!





16 thoughts on “October Means #MerlotMe Paired With Instant Pot Bacon Mushroom Merlot Chicken #WinePW

  1. Bacon and Mushroom Merlot Chicken – That sounds so delicious! You and I had several of the same wines, so it’s fun to compare and contrast. I just had the 9 hats the other night with a chicken dish I’m working on and I completely agree that it would be great with burgers and steak and would love to try it with the Gouda.

    Liked by 1 person

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