I think that by now, most wine lovers are familiar with the rise and fall of the merlot grape. After the movie Sideways, merlot took a huge hit when people started switching to pinot noir. While the much-maligned varietal might deserve a bit of the criticism it received, namely that the wine lacked structure and soul, the fact remains that merlot is capable of producing world class wines. This "Merlot Day" is a cool way to rediscover the grape, or get acquainted with one of the most popular varietals in the world. I'd recommend the St. Francis merlot as a good place to start, also try Stag's Leap, Whitehall Lane, or Flora Springs. If you're looking for more value-oriented merlot, Columbia Crest makes a superb example under their "Grand Estate" classification, as do Bogle and Blackstone.
Luckily, merlot can pair well with a wide variety of foods and one of my somewhat-secret pleasures is pairing merlot with a shrimp and pesto pizza. If you're into cheese pairings, try a bottle of Napa Valley merlot with Camembert and Gruyere cheeses. Alternately if you are sometimes into simple things like I am, do a bacon grilled cheese sandwich with some sharp cheddar and smokey gouda, toss in finely diced sun-dried tomatoes, on fresh sourdough, and down a glass of merlot with that. It's a quick but very delicious meal.
What's your favorite merlot? Did you (like me) shun merlot after seeing Sideways? Have any great merlot and food pairings for us?
From the press release:
|(image via http://www.stfranciswinery.com)|