Saturday, October 10, 2015

A Triple Food and Merlot Tasting #MerlotMe #WinePW

0Did you know that October is Merlot month?  No?  Don't feel bad, I didn't either until my friend, Jeff of  Food Wine Click, and our leader at Wine Pairing Weekend told us all about it and wrote this great post about it.  As you can see if you read this post, Jeff not only informed us that it was Merlot month he managed to have the participating wineries to provide us with bottles of Merlot to try.

I received four bottles of wine to pair with foods and share my opinions with you. Two bottles of Merlot from J Lohr, a Napa Valley Merlot from Duckhorn and a Sonoma County Merlot from Decoy. We are not normally Merlot drinkers so #MerlotMe is aimed at those like us, red wine drinkers that walk right past the Merlot and head for the Cabernet for heavy meals or the Pinot Noir for lighter meals.  Let me tell you, having #MerlotMe to bring attention to this neglected wine, worked perfectly on us.

I am not going to compare these wines as they were all very good in their own way.  I am going to tell you how they worked with the food with which I served them.  We did not drink these wines together but on three separate occasions with three separate meals.  While I appreciate our sponsors, I never write anything that is not 100% my own opinion and 100% truthful.

The first bottle we opened and tasted was the J Lohr.  We are very familiar with J Lohr and often buy their Cabernet Sauvignon which we always enjoy.

J Lohr sent us a fact sheet along with the wines giving more information about Merlot Wine that I found very interesting.  Did you know that Merlot is the second leading variety grown in California? Or that it is one of the primary grapes used in Bordeaux wine?

Also included on this fact sheet were some food pairing ideas that included Cheese Tortellini or Herb Roasted Chicken.  Now normally if I were going to serve a red with pasta, I would choose a Chianti and I normally serve Chardonnay or another white wine with chicken.  I was intrigued with the thought of serving Merlot with chicken as Frank really prefers a red wine over a white wine and I knew that he would be happy if we found a red wine pairing that worked.

I served this wine with a Chicken and Eggplant Casserole.  It paired, if not perfectly, then at least very well.  I am anxious to try Merlot the next time I make Roast Chicken and I think it may become a regular on our family table.  In the future when I reach for a bottle of J Lohr it will not necessarily be a Cabernet Sauvignon although that still remains one of my favorite bottles.

The next pairing we tried was the Duckhorn Merlot that I served up along side a Filet Mignon with a Chocolate Port Sauce.  The Duckhorn Merlot was very smooth and heavier than I expect when drinking a Merlot.  This may well become one of my new favorite wines.  I liked it just as well as some Cabs and better than many Cabs.  I cannot express enough how pleased I was to be given an opportunity to try this wine from a winery of which I was unfamiliar.  I am anxious to try their other wines.  If they are all to the same standard as this bottle, I may have found a new favorite.  You can find my recipe for this steak here.  It was a perfect Wine and Food pairing and is going down as one of the best meals we have enjoyed this year.

The final pairing was a Decoy Merlot from Sonoma.  I love Sonoma wines.  My brother lives not too far from this area and I have spent many an enjoyable day touring the wineries and tasting all the great wines they have to offer.  I served this wine up with a Cheese Ravioli Lasagna that I am sharing with you today as well.

 Decoy is another wine that I have never tried before.  It is made by the same company as Duckhorn and it too was heavier than most Merlots I have tried.  It was not as heavy as the Duckhorn but it was just as smooth and very delicious.  Had I tried these wines, with their full mouth feel and their silky smoothness before finding Cabernet, I might be writing this same article with Cab being the wine with which I was less familiar.  I think this little experiment made a Merlot lover out of me.

This Decoy Merlot paired very nicely with the pasta that I served up with it.  This was a new pasta recipe for me.  I got the idea for this dish from Cuisine at Home but I changed it up quite a bit to make it my own.  I used my homemade marinara sauce, ricotta cheese instead of cottage cheese, oregano paste instead of dried, and fresh Swiss Chard instead of frozen spinach.  I also added mushrooms and onion to the dish.

It was delicious and made for a beautiful presentation which was one idea that I did keep from the original recipe.  You should really try this easy peasy and delicious recipe.  It is perfect for a busy weeknight meal.  When you do make it, please reach for a bottle of Merlot to enjoy with it.  You won't be sorry, I promise.

Ravioli Lasagna
inspired by Cuisine at Home

1/2 (1 qt)  jar of Marinara Sauce, store bought or your favorite recipe
1 T. olive oil
1/2 of a small onion, diced
4 oz. mushrooms, sliced
leaves from one bunch Swiss Chard, roughly chopped
3/4 c. ricotta cheese
3/4 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1 egg, beaten
2 t. oregano paste or 1 t. dried oregano
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1 (12 oz) pkg fresh, refrigerated cheese ravioli
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over med high heat.  Add the onions and mushrooms, season with salt and pepper.  Cook and stir until onions are softened and translucent.  Add the chard leaves and cook until wilted.  Transfer to the bowl of a food processor and pulse 3 or 4 times, until coarsely chopped.

Spray 4 (10 oz) ramekins with cooking spray and place on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.

Combine ricotta, mozzarella, egg, oregano, nutmeg and chard mixture in a large bowl.  Put a layer of sauce into each of the ramekins.  Place 3 ravioli on top of the sauce.  Layer 1/4 of the cheese mixture on top of the ravioli.  Top with remaining ravioli and cover completely with sauce.  Spray 4 pieces of aluminum foil with cooking spray and tightly wrap each ramekin.  Place the ramekins on the baking sheet into a preheated 375* oven for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and let sit, covered for 15 minutes.  Turn each ramekin onto a plate and top with freshly shredded or grated Parmesan cheese. Print Recipe

Let's see what the others thought of the Merlot wines they were given to try

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  1. Looks like you had fun with this month's challenge. (if you could call sampling wonderful Merlot a challenge) We are huge fans of J. Lohr! As for the Duckhorn, we loved it and can't wait to try the Decoy.

    1. I had a great time and I loved all three bottles that I got.

  2. Wendy your filet with Chocolate Port Sauce looks amazing! I love that paired each wine with a different dish. What a fun month this has been for all of us! Cheers.

  3. The chocolate port sauce looks absolutely amazing! What a great pairing idea!

  4. Filet with chocolate port sauce?!?! When am I coming over for dinner!? What a great post, Wendy.

    1. Oh how I would love to have you, Jake and the Kitchen Elves over for dinner. We will probably be in CA before you are in MI. I will let you know.


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