Friday, November 12, 2010

Merlot Wine and Food Pairings

Merlot was my first red wine love. The word merlot is derived from the French and it means “blackbird.”It is thought the merlot grapes are dark as a blackbird. The flavor profile of merlot is blackberry, plum and currants. Sometimes you will find other flavors like chocolate and a bit of leather; but most of the time the fruit is the star of merlot. Merlot is often used as a blending wine in other varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon.  Meritage wines or wines that contain more than one variety of Bordeaux style grape varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Merlot has gotten a bad reputation because it is not that easy to find a well made Merlot. I hate to sound like the character Miles from the movie “Sideways”; but merlot can be less than stellar sometimes. The movie Sideways gave merlot a bad name and made Pinot Noir a rising star in the world of wine.  Here are some fun facts about Merlot.
The addition of merlot can really add lushness to Cabernet Sauvignon. I like my red wines to be fruit forward and lush with a bit of structure.  Merlot gives that to me in a red wine and pairs well with cheeses and beef dishes. One of my favorite pairings with merlot is a hamburger. This wine is great for a grill party. It not only pairs well with burgers, but steaks as well. Here is a review of one of my most liked value priced merlots.
Bogle 2008 Merlot
 This wine has a beautiful deep dark red color. The nose is filled with dark fruit flavors and is just delightful. The palate has the same dark fruit flavors like plum and black cherry mixed with spice from the oak. This wine is smooth and it reminded me again why Merlot was my first red wine love. I really think this will be my QPR Merlot for this year. This wine is great to sip on its own or to pair with a burger, and steaks. This would also be a great wine with appetizers like cocktail meatballs, sausages and cheeses. This is a value wine and should be one to keep on hand in your cellar. The suggested retail price is $9.00

Lorrie’s Steak Bites

1 12 -14 oz rib eye steak cut into inch cubes
1 bottle Stubb’s Beef Marinade
1 package of bacon cut into thirds
1 bottle of your favorite steak sauce (I like A-1)
Marinade cubed steak in enough marinade to cover the meat for at least 30 minutes. An hour is better.  Use a paper towel to absorb some of the excess marinade off the steak. Wrap each piece of steak with a piece of bacon strip, then secure with a tooth pick. Sear in a frying pan or grill on a grill until the bacon is done. Heat up your favorite steak sauce to dip the steak bites in. A fondue pot would be great to keep the sauce warm. Note: The amount of steak bites will vary due to the size of the steak.

Wine suggestion:  Rodney Strong 2007 Merlot Sonoma County

Lorrie's Super Bruschetta
1 head of roasted garlic (recipe will follow)
(1) 8 oz package of cream cheese
½ cup of sharp cheddar cheese
1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon of Creole seasoning
2 tablespoons of melted I can't Believe it's not Butter
¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil
20 diagonally sliced pieces of French bread
(1) 12 oz jar of roasted red peppers
½ lb. of thinly sliced beef pastrami
(1) 8 oz. block of Fontina cheese
dried chives for garnish

To roast garlic: 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
Cut the top off the head of garlic, just enough to see the garlic toes exposed. Put in a square of aluminum foil. Put olive oil on top and add about a teaspoon of water on the bottom of the foil, close up and bake an hour.
Squeeze roasted garlic toes out of the head of garlic into a small bowl.
This can be done ahead of time to save in prep time.
In addition, the cream cheese mixture can be made ahead as well.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix melted margarine and olive oil together in a cup. Brush the bread with the olive oil mixture and bake for about 5-7 minutes.
In a food processor, combine cream cheese, cheddar cheese, roasted garlic toes, cayenne pepper and Creole seasoning and pulse until blended. 
Remove from oven and spread a teaspoon of cream cheese mixture on each slice of bread. Then add a piece of roasted red pepper. Then add a small piece of pastrami, then a thin slice of Fontina cheese, and a drop of oil on each slice of bread. Sprinkle with chives. Bake in oven until the cheese is melted. About 5 minutes.
Wine Suggestions: Bogle 2008 Merlot or Red Diamond 2007 Merlot

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