A #WinePW Party Preview, Merlot-Poached Pears + a Pope Valley Merlot
Updated: Oct 15
This month I am hosting the #WinePW celebration of Merlot.
It's October. Do you know what that means? Well, for the previous seven years, it's the time of year when bottles of Merlot start arriving at my door for #MerlotMe. The Wine Pairing Weekend - #WinePW - crew had been participating in this online celebration of the Merlot grape for the past several years. But this year, the event isn't happening officially. Still, the group had it on the calendar, so we are still turning our eyes to this food-friendly grape.
And we will be gathering for a live chat on X (formerly Twitter) at 8am on Saturday, October 14th. Follow the hashtag #WinePW and be sure to add it to anything you post so we can see it.
Our Party Preview
Here's the line-up from the Wine Pairing Weekend crew...
American Merlot Meets Kashmiri Food by Keep the Peas
A Redwoods Ride, a Merlot from Santa Cruz, and Pacific Cod Soft Tacos by Culinary Cam
Bottom Round Roast with Mushrooms and Merlot by Cooking Chat
Celebrating our Homecoming with L’Ecole Merlot by A Day in the Life on the Farm
Magical Merlot Moments by Avvinare
Marvelous, Magnificent, Merlot by Side Hustle Wino
Merlot and the Common French Fry: Just Do It! by Our Good Life
Pairing Merlot while the kitchen is out of service by My Full Wine Glass
Unveiling the Flavors: Blueberry Tart and L'Ecole Merlot by Exploring the Wine Glass
Vegetarian Italian Fall Fare: Squash Focaccia Wins With Ettore’s Organic Mendocino Merlot by Wine Predator...Gwendolyn Alley
Because I arranged some wineries to send samples to a few writers, after I already found a few wines for this month, I will be posting bonus #WinePW pairings with Merlots from L'Ecole in Walla Walla, Washington and from Goldschmidt Vineyards here in California. Stay tuned!
And I just had to share one of my favorite ways to use Merlot in a dessert...
There seem to be two distinct camps: one who thinks red wine and chocolate are a darling pair; one who thinks that those should never be served together. I fall firmly in the first camp, with the proviso that I mean good, dark chocolate with a high percentage of cacao solids and good red wine. You need the flavor intensities to be equally matched or one is going to overpower the other.
Note that you will need to poach the pears the day before you want to serve them as they need to soak in their poaching liquid overnight.
8 Seckel pears
2 cup red wine
3/4 cup organic granulated sugar
(you should make this right before you want to serve because there's not much better than warm chocolate sauce)
1 cup organic heavy whipping cream
8 ounces semisweet chocolate (minimum of 64% cacao though I prefer 75%), chopped or use chips
1 Tablespoon butter
1 to 2 Tablespoons Merlot
Peel the pears, but leave the stem intact. That makes it easier to pick them up without damaging the flesh and it also looks cool!
Pour the red wine into a saucepan and add the sugar. Heat and swirl the pan until the sugar is dissolved.
Place the pears in the red wine and simmer gently at a very low heat for 25 to 30 minutes. You want the pears softened, but still retaining their shape. Once softened, remove from the heat, and leave the pears in the poaching liquid. You will need to turn the pears if they are not completely submerged in the liquid. I probably turned mine 4 times while they cooled. Then I refrigerated them - in the liquid - overnight.
Before serving, remove them from the liquid and bring them to room temperature. They should look like this!
Combine the cream, wine, and butter in a small saucepan. Heat over medium high heat until the cream begins to steam and small bubbles form around the edge of the pan. Pour in the chocolate and swirl until it's completely submerged. Let stand for 3 minutes. Whisk until a smooth sauce forms. This sauce is best served warm.
Pour a small pool of chocolate into the bottom of a shallow bowl. Place your poached pear in the center. Serve immediately!
A Pope Valley Merlot
As a pairing, I poured a Merlot from Pope Valley Winery, a winery in the Napa Valley on the northern face of the Howell Mountain. Founded in the end of the nineteenth century by Ed Haus, it was originally the Burgundy Winery & Olive Factory. Even through Prohibition, the winery did well as the Haus family continued to produce wine that was taken by horse cart to Napa and put on a train to Chicago where it was served in Al Capone's speakeasies and brothels. Outwardly, it seemed that the winery had ceased operations during Prohibition, but a read of the Haus family diaries reveal the truth.
Currently, forty acres remain of the original one hundred and sixty acre property, but an additional forty acres were added to the estate where they grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Petit Verdot.
I found it the perfect match for my chocolate dessert course, but think it would have been just as good with a savory course. The wine was silky and subdued with sweet notes of cherry, spiciness of clove, and a bit of warm oak on the palate. Very enjoyable.
Stay tuned for this weekend when all of the #WinePW Merlot posts go live. And, as I mentioned, a few more Merlot matches I have planned for you. Cheers!