#MerlotMe Again: Washington’s Northstar Merlot with Ahi Tuna


For #MerlotMe in October, several wineries sent us Merlot samples. We tasted, paired, and blogged about world class wine from California and Oregon with prices ranging from $15-$55 including Duckhorn, Peju, Murphy-Goode, and more which we paired with everything from squash soup to gourmet grilled cheese to French cuosine which you can read about here and here.

But the moment I saw that bottle of Northstar Merlot from the Columbia Valley in Washington I knew that #MerlotMe would not happen in October because I’d be saving it for when the tuna boat would come in!

Just as fisherfolk use the North Star as a directional guide, “Northstar Winery was established in the early 1990s to guide the
 creation of world-class Merlot-based wines that demonstrate the potential
 of the variety in Washington State.”

Because, you see, we live in a harbor with a fish market, and when tuna is in season from December to April, the boat comes in once a month or so with a load of fresh ahi, opah, wahoo, swordfish and more. You can buy a whole fish or buy the pound.

And there is nothing better to pair with Washington Merlot than Seared Ahi Tuna.


Northstar – Merlot – Columbia Valley – 2012 – 14.7% alcohol – SRP $40 Continue reading

3 Washington Merlots, 3 Entrees, 20 Tweets

Back in late March, a bunch of us tasted merlot one evening and tweeted about it. Like a few hundred people. Posting a few thousand tweets. From all our various living rooms. And tasting rooms. And who knows where all else.

I have to admit I contributed more than 20 of those tweets about Washington merlot, specifically three Washington merlot: 2007 Red Diamond ($7 at Trader Joe’s), 2006 Columbia Crest Estates ($7.99 at Trader Joe’s, and Columbia Crest H3 (on sale at the grocery store for $12) which I paired with a seared ahi on a bed of field greens with rice wine vinegar and sesame oil, a peanut sauce tofu stirfry, and take-out mu shu pork. I was particularly curious about the mu-shu pork match after reading this suggestion on a website that suggested Asian food with Washington merlot.

You can go see yourself by scrolling through my twitter feed but my tweets went something like this: Continue reading

Chateau Ste Michelle 2005 Columbia Valley Merlot takes the prize

I bet you’re dying to know what I drank the other night with my New York Strip steak–which wine took the prize so to speak. Let me give you a hint:

Day 2 Itinerary: Food & Wine Pairing at Ste. Michelle–The first stop of the day will take place at Chateau Ste. Michelle, Washington’s original Chateau and founding winery. Following a guided tour, our guest bloggers will enjoy an informative food and wine pairing experience.

Yes, you guessed it, I went with the wine selection from Washington State to add to my collection of posts about Washington State wines to compete in the WBC-or-Bust contest. And like I said in the previous post, it’s the one Washington State merlot the grocery store had–a 2005 Chateau St. Michelle. Makes sense for my first WA wine to write about it the first stop on the bus, yes? Maybe this will be a trend–or a direction on where to go with this series of posts!

The 2005 Chateau St. Michelle merlot is soft, supple, smooth and easy to drink; in fact I drank most of the bottle last night save one large glass to enjoy today as I write this post! The alcohol is a reasonable 13.5 so it didn’t knock off my socks (or any other clothing items!)

The color of the merlot is a deep concentrated plummy red while the nose is cherry and cola with some berry, plum, and licorice: typical, not surprising. It’s got lots of nice friendly fruit flavor, mostly cherry and other dark fruits; again, to be expected. At first I thought it too flabby, lacking structure, but the wine grew on me and it nicely complemented my steak with stilton crumbled on top. It did NOT go with the leftover potatoes from Wednesdays corned beef (ohh, but with the black and tan I enjoyed on Wednesday they were scrumptiously delectably matched!)

According to the Chateau St. Michelle website, food styles that match well with Merlot include

Mild to Intensely Flavored: Grilled salmon, roasted lamb, wild game, and balsamic or tomato-based sauces work well with the jammy flavors of Merlot.

Chinese: Merlot has a softer taste that lends itself to the flavors of Chinese food. Peking duck, mu shu pork, braised soy pork.

I can totally see this pairing nicely with the plum sauce and flavors in mu shu whether it be chicken, pork, duck, tofu or beef! They of course suggest one of their cabs to go with the steak!

The following day I had it with some crackers and cheeses included aged gouda and an aged goat cheese gouda. The merlot paired well with both and was a terrific way to celebrate what my grandma Gwenn called “Wine-Thirty.”

Overall, while merlot isn’t my favorite varietal, I’m not one to turn up my nose just because it’s merlot; I’m willing to give it a go and I’ve had some good ones. This 2005 Chateau St. Michelle is a great value on sale at $10. Bring it to a party and everyone will enjoy it. It’s a terrific, mild, juicy red wine for the white wine drinker.

Now to find another Washington Merlot to taste by Thursday! And guess what we’ll be having for dinner? That’s right–I’m going for Chinese take-out of Mu shu pork!

(This post clocks in at over 550 words–nearly 4 posts for the price of wine! Ummn, one! I’m thinking instead of number of posts, the contest should go with number of words!)

Twitter Tasting Event Picks Washington Merlot Thursday March 25

Thursday, March 25,  I will join in on the third Twitter Tasting event: Washington Merlot. The first one focused on California Cabernets and I tweeted enthusiastically about Old Creek Ranch’s Napa Valley Cabernet. For number two, my friend Tim Cabrera and I went to Summerland Winery where we tasted and he bought a bottle of their sauvignon blanc which is one of his favorite summertime wines (and I could sure see why!)

And since I am going on a Washington Wine tasting and blogging binge in order to compete in the WBC-or-Bust contest, it’s a no brainer that I will be participating in Thursday’s live Twitter Tasting for Washington Merlot.

Trouble is, I live in California, in a town some of us call “Ventucky.” It doesn’t boast much in the way of wine stores–although some people here do boast about our wine BARS. Granted, Nick’s Cave and the Ventura Wine Store is a wonderful place; however, he specializes in California wines, particularly local ones, and especially those that the distributor will give him marked down lower than some wineries are comfortable going.

So I went to Vons. We have five Vons in our small town, and fortunately for me, two of them have a decent wine selection. One of them, on Seaward by the beach, sells the most wine out of all the stores in California I’ve been told and makes the most money per square foot out of the whole chain. Probably because they carry and sell a LOT of pricey wine. CALIFORNIA wine.

I went to the Vons on Borchard. On their clearance shelf I got lucky and found one of my favorite inexpensive pinot noirs, Wild Rock, for 50% so I picked up two bottles for the price of one ($15)  plus a 2006 Babich unoaked chard for $5 and a Napa Valley White Oak Syrah for $13.

Unfortunately I could only find one Washington merlot, a 2005 by Chateau Ste. Michelle on sale for $10.

Since I bought six bottles, they took another 10% off. In addition, the other day I picked up two bottles of Ravenswood 2007 Vintners Blend at 50% off (two at $12), and I walked out of Vons with a 2008 St. Francis Chardonnay for $9!

This state of affairs is going to make it very very difficult for me to write much about Washington wines in the next month in order to be competitive in the WBC-or-Bust contest. I just bought nine bottles of wine and even at discounted prices, I spent some money, and I only ended up with one from Washington! And my Twisted Few wine club shipment just came in to my cellar up at my mom’s house!

If I get desperate enough, and move quickly enough, possible I could order wine for the event here: http://wine-beer-washington.com/announcements/washington-merlot-deals-discounts-and-doings/

One last dilemna: what to drink with the beautiful New York steak I bought for tonight? Do I drink the Chateau St. Michelle Washington merlot and get started on my challenge and prep my tastebuds for Thursday? Or do I drink one of these other fabulous wines I bought in the past 72 hours? I hope the suspense doesn’t get to you!

Want to join in the fun? Register for the Washington Merlot Twitter Tasting here; it’s free and you don’t even have to register to participate. Just get on twitter and let the tweets flow with the Washington merlot!

Word count: this one clocks in at nearly 600 words! I definitely should have turned this one into three posts!