It has been many months since my last post (guess that’s my confession). I’ve still been eating great food and drinking plenty of wine, just took another break from blogging. I’m ready to jump back in after a wonderful evening exploring Merlot and food pairings.

Most of my friends not only enjoy wine, they also enjoy to cook and experiment with pairings. I decided to have a few of them over for a Merlot focused evening. Basically a very casual time to taste a bunch of different Merlots with several different dishes.

Merlot drinking friends
Merlot drinking friends

 

People were asked to bring a Merlot, from any region and any vintage, at any price point. Here is the list we sampled:

  • Venus Rosa, Cava Muciel, Valle de Guadalupe (fun to start with a rosé)
  • 2012 Via Láctea, Cava Muciel, Valle de Guadalupe
  • 2012 Folkway, Bien Nacido
  • 2012 Makor, Bien Nacido
  • 2014 Lazarre, Paso Robles
  • 2013 Broken Earth Winery, Reserve, Paso Robles
  • 2015 Graveyard Vineyards, Paso Robles
  • 2014 Markham, Napa Valley
  • 2014 14 Hands Winery, Columbia Valley

For the food, a couple of my friends jumped in with appetizers that they felt would pair well with Merlot. I would have to say that all of them worked well. One of the advantage of Merlot is it tends to be extremely easy to pair with a wide range of food including almost every protein from Salmon to Beef.

Here are the appetizers, and a little food porn for you:

Savory cheddar cookies with peacans and dates wrapped in bacon
Savory cheddar cookies with peacans and dates wrapped in bacon
Pheasant Pâté with mustard on endive or crackers
Pheasant Pâté with mustard on endive or crackers
Lamb balls with cherry sauce
Lamb balls with cherry sauce

 

The appetizers all disappeared as we worked our way through the Merlot tasting. Although the wines were clearly at different price points and age, there really wasn’t a loser in the group. For me, I try to stay away from the very green/vegetative Merlots as well as the over ripe/jammy/high alc ones. I would say all were well balanced and easy drinking.

!30F for 70 minutes was perfect!
!30F for 70 minutes was perfect!

Then it was time for dinner. One of the reasons I wanted to have friends over was so I could “play” with my new Sous Vide. I purchased some beef tenderloin cut into thick (2-inch) filet mignon steaks. I knew a nice cut of beef would go great with most Merlots so wasn’t worried about the pairing.

It was my first time using the Sous Vide for beef so I was nervous since not only did I have dinner guests, but I really didn’t want to ruin that awesome cut of beef. After researching on-line, I decided to go with a temperature of 130F for a little over an hour. The beef was seasoned with salt, pepper, and a little olive oil. When it was taken out of the Sous Vide, it was seared in a little olive oil in a very hot pan  and then left to rest for a few minutes prior to slicing. IT WAS PERFECT. So tender with beautiful color – I’ll never cook another filet mignon any other way.

Served with roasted potatoes, caramelized onions and sautéed mushrooms, it was your classic meat and potato dinner. This meal would pair with most red wines and the Merlots on the table worked well.

Although we did not have a formal rating system, as we discussed the wines at the end of the evening there were a couple that really did stand out. One was the 2012 Via Láctea from Mexico. It was my first time sampling a Mexican wine and I was very pleasantly surprised. One of my winemaker friends had taken a “research” trip there and brought this to the gathering for us to try. Glad she did!

The other wine that really stood out (and was the first bottle to be empty) was the 2012 Makor from Bien Nacido. We tried this along with the Folkway since they were both from the same vineyard and vintage — interesting to see how different wines can be when they start with the same fruit. Not saying the Folkway wasn’t good, but the Makor was clearly the crowd pleaser.

Given we all live in Paso Robles and work in the wine industry, it wasn’t surprising that we had three Merlots from the Paso AVA. Of the three, I have to say the 2014 Lazarre was the most interesting. It was just recently bottled (with a newly designed label) and I can’t wait to try it again after it has had more time to evolve – drinking fine now but expect it to age nicely in the bottle.

We also sampled a “well known” label from Napa Valley and Washington state. Once again they were solid wine, easy drinking, just nothing that stood out.

With the warm weather around the corner, I’ll select a white or rosé for my next food and wine adventure!