How Merlot Can You Go

Cheers

I’ve been on a real Merlot kick lately. I love Merlot.

Merlot is the #1 grape varietal in France and the #2 varietal in the world, behind Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot is a full-bodied grape but less aggressive than Cabernet Sauvignon, as it’s not as tannic. (A tannic wine will get your two jawlines singing) It’s smooth and lush, and great for pairing with food. Before I get into some of the new Merlot wines I have tried recently, I wanted to share this with you.

4 years ago yesterday

Yesterday marked 4 years since I became a Certified Sommelier.

I worked really hard for 5 years to get this Certification, so I was really proud. Hundreds of hours in a classroom and even more time spent studying. I always joke and say I loved the homework, but believe me, this was a lot of work and I’m incredibly proud of this accomplishment. Considering I do not work full time in the wine industry, one of the reasons I keep writing this blog is so that I don’t get rusty on wine. (Other than the drinking part) Doing this blog not only encourages me to continue trying new wines, it also has me reading up on what’s happening in the wine world & the latest trends.

I have it framed and proudly displayed

So let me share with you some of the new Merlot wines I have tried lately.

Ghost Pines Merlot

I’m not sure if this is being discontinued in Nova Scotia, but I believe it was originally around $27.99 and it was on sale for $21.99, and I think I may have bought the last one at my neighbourhood NSLC. I enjoyed this, it had a real smoky flavor to it, which paired wonderfully with the meat I had on the grill. You would be hard pressed to find a rating from a wine critic less than 90 Points on this wine, it’s that good. If you see it, and it’s on sale, I recommend you scoop it up.

Sterling California Merlot

This wine was so good! And for a week, it was on sale here. Still a great value at $17.99, I picked up a couple of bottles when it was $15.99. A note to my Newfoundland friends, this wine is available at the NLC as well. The Vintner Collection from Sterling represents a distinct quality, and Wine Spectator says it was plush and well spiced. And that’s what Merlot is all about!

Think Outside the Box

I like to think outside the box when it comes to my wines, so its always fun to try a Merlot (or your favorite wine) from a different country. Chile is producing some fantastic Merlot wines. Chile is producing some great wines period. Although Merlot was bought to South America in the 19th Century, it wasn’t until the Chile & Argentina wine boom of the 1990’s that people started appreciating the Merlot made there. This is a great Merlot for $18

And last, but certainly not least, the biggest treat in my two weeks of Merlot madness! It was amazing. Here’s what the winemaker had to say.

“Our 2017 Sandstone Merlot has inviting notes of ripe fig and pomegranate, with a hint of sandalwood. This delicious Merlot bursts with berry flavors from cranberry, grilled cherry and acai, finishing with a nice lingering acidity.”

Wente was named American Winery of the Year in 2011 and it started in 1883 with Carl Wente. 4th generation siblings, Eric, Phillip & Carolyn took it over in the late 70’s. This family has been making wine for a long time, and they know how to make it right. It’s a great price at under $24. Sandstone refers to the soil the Merlot grapes were grown in. Some of the great wine regions, like Bordeaux, have Sandstone. You’ll really notice it makes a difference in the wine.

Have a great weekend everyone. Till next week, Cheers

Does Your Easter Bunny Bring Wine?

This is how my Easter weekend is going

I thought this cute little GIF perfectly describes how I am spending my relaxing Easter weekend. And yes, my Easter Bunny does bring wine, and I hope he does for you too.

I want to share something that happened to me this past week, it happens on a semi-regular basis. So this happened a few days back.

The wine was compromised

This picture may not show it well, but I opened a bottle of red wine, and the cork was all wet and red. I knew instantly the wine was compromised. One sip confirmed this with a strong vinegar taste. So I put the cork back in the bottle and returned the remaining wine back to the NSLC. They are excellent, and will return your wine if you bring it back. (not empty of course) Most people don’t know this but anywhere from 2% to 8% of wines are corked, with the lower number being synthetic closures. Which is why synthetic closures and screw caps are becoming more and more popular.

Cork, from trees mostly grown in Portugal, started becoming the favorite stopper, replacing glass stoppers, back in the 1600’s. Too many of the glass stoppers would break. But cork is a) becoming much more expensive and b) it reacts to temperature spikes, high temperatures and movement. A compromised wine can smell vinegary, like the one I had did, but mostly they smell like a wet dog. It’s that moldy, damp wet dog smell in reds, and in white wines it will smell like cooked fruit or also like pronounced vinegar.

Another way to tell if your wine has been affected is if the cork is protruding from the bottle top. However, just because it isn’t, doesn’t mean the wine inside hasn’t been compromised. Or, as in my case, the entire cork was soaking wet with wine, not just the very bottom of the cork. The best ways to tell is smell and taste.

Did you know most people didn’t realize you could bring back tainted wine? You can, and they will graciously exchange it for you. Too many people have tainted wine and thought “I don’t like this wine”, or they pour a bad wine down the sink. That’s what I used to do. But wine is expensive, and your liquor store knows a certain percentage of wine will be off.

I love a good feed

I’ve had to use up some remaining 2020 vacation days in March, as our year end is March 31st, so I’ve been doing some cooking. No surprise there. Yes, that’s a feed of ribs you see in that picture.

Can’t grill without wine

I did some kabobs. My sister Jackie, absolutely loves chicken kabobs, hands down her favorite BBQ food. So I’ve been trying new recipes, with new marinades. This tasty marinade, in front of the glass of wine, consisted of olive oil, lime juice, honey, garlic, cilantro, soy sauce and a touch of ginger. I’m very careful when cooking with ginger, I use it in a bottle. I find it can over-power the food, unless you are careful, or unless you love ginger. Again, I marinated my chicken in this combo for a couple of hours, and set aside some of the marinade to use while cooking.

Invest in a meat thermometer
A Nice steady temperature

These two pictures are very important for my cooking and grilling. A meat thermometer and a nice steady temperature. When I’m grilling, I try not to keep the lid open for long. Let the grill do the work. However, I open the grill at times to bring temperatures back down.

And my friend Sharon gave me this wonderful meat thermometer for Christmas, and it was one of my favorite gifts. You need a meat thermometer because the days of guessing if the meat is done is so 1980’s. Our moms did this. ‘Oh, it looks like it’s done, so I’ll leave it in the oven for another 20 minutes just to be sure’. I don’t know about you, but I grew up on overcooked meat. My mother was scared to death of meat that was done any way less than well done. We’ve all heard the horror stories.

But my biggest cooking accomplishment over the past few weeks has been scalloped potatoes. This is a favorite with my sister and all my nephews. My sister, who doesn’t generally cook as a rule, told me to ignore if the recipe says 60 minutes, you need 90 – 100 minutes to properly cook scalloped potatoes.

My trusty mandolin

You can buy a mandolin anywhere for less than $20. I love mine, and find it so handy.

It makes perfect potatoes for scalloped potatoes. Would you believe I forgot to take a picture of the finished product, but the easy recipe I used is right here! Just so you know, I cooked them covered for 1 hour 25 minutes, and then uncovered and cooked for another 15 minutes. They were tender, cheesy and delicious. I also added some freshly grated parmesan in all the layers and a mozza/cheddar blend on top.

But enough about food, let’s talk some wine.

Ruffino Pinot Grigio from Italy

To our weekly games night, Joan bought this beautiful Pinot Grigio. Ruffino is a staple in Italy, making quality wine there for 140 years. Vibrant and fresh on the palate, this wine is under $15 and just a gorgeous white wine.

Avalon Cab is on sale here in NS

For the red this week, this wonderful Cabernet Sauvignon from Lodi California. Lodi, with its beautiful Mediterranean climate, is more known for Zinfandel, but the soil and climate of California, produces some spectacular Cabernet Sauvignon wines. This easy to drink Cab with its hints of vanilla, spice and chocolate, is a perfect pairing for whatever else the Easter Bunny brings this weekend. Priced under $20 normally, it’s on sale here in Nova Scotia right now at $17. My apologies for snapping this photo, above my cat food dishes. LOL.

Have a safe wonderful Easter weekend. Till next weekend, Cheers

Darlene