October is #MerlotMe Month: Here’s What I’ve Been Sipping

October is for drinking Merlot!

Do you love Merlot? If so, you’re not alone: there’s now an entire month devoted to wines made from this grape, whose origins lie in the vineyards of Bordeaux. Giving rise to wines with widespread appeal, Merlot is now planted all over the world.

This Saturday, October 10th, the Wine Pairing Weekend bloggers explore some of their favorite Merlot wines, along with delicious dishes to serve with them. We’ll be chatting on Twitter at 11 am ET and we’d love for you to join us. Share your favorite #MerlotMe pairings by following our hashtag #WinePW, and make sure to add it to your tweets. Hope to see you there!

Here’s a preview of what we’ll be talking about:

Thank You for the Samples!

A delicious #MerlotMe Line Up

Our group has participated with the founders of #MerlotMe for the past few years, offering sample bottles to registered bloggers. I’ve been grateful for the opportunity, especially this year, in light of the devastating wildfires in California and the struggles businesses and individuals are facing during the pandemic.

The wine community is generous and looks out for its own, and I’m proud to be a small part of it.

Special thanks to these folks for sharing their wine, wisdom, and good will:

Gwen McGill, Merlot Month Coordinator

Stay tuned for details on my Bonterra Merlot pairing.

Bonterra Organic Vineyards

Pairing described below

Markham Vineyards

Can’t have Merlot Month without an entry from Washington state!

Northstar Winery

You might guess what I paired with the St.Supéry Merlot: traditional and elegant. Coming soon!

St. Supéry Estate Vineyards

Throughout October I’ll be sharing wine and food pairings highlighting each of the sample bottles I’ve received, so stay tuned for future posts here on the blog and also on my Instagram feed.

For the #WinePW chat I’ll be talking about the 2017 Markham Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot.

Surf and Turf with Markham Napa Valley Merlot

Surf and turf was not my dinner plan. I had intended to grill two pieces of ahi tuna, put together a nice salad, and pour a crisp, Italian white wine.

But I left Gabe in charge of the shopping.

While I appreciated his help with this weekly chore, what came out of the grocery bags didn’t exactly match up with what was on my list. Instead of two pieces of tuna, there was just one; similar situation with the steaks. I ended up with one of each, so pivoted to surf and turf on the fly.

A happy accident, as I had the perfect wine to accompany it!

Not what I had planned to serve, but totally delicious – and a great pairing with Markham Napa Valley Merlot.

The 2017 Markham Napa Valley Merlot worked well with both proteins and was just plain delicious. It is a wine of 100% Merlot from three single vineyards: Yountville Estate (50%); Hoppa House Vineyard (23%); and Little Cannon Vineyard (27%). The grape juice spent 14 days in contact with the skins and then was fermented in stainless steel vats. It was then transferred to French oak barrels (50% new) for 17.5 months.

My tasting notes are full of red and black fruit aromas, ripe but not overly so. There are inviting notes of baking spices and cocoa, a little toast, and a hint of vanilla. The long finish lingers with black raspberry and mint, and makes you want to repeat the experience all over again. Of particular note: the wine is light and fresh despite its 14.6% alcohol level. Its structure is welll-balanced, with medium+ acidity, medium tannins, and medium+ body.

Our surf and turf pairing shows just how versatile this Napa Valley Merlot is: hearty enough to match an herb-grilled steak; flexible enough to flatter the ahi tuna. This is a wine that will appeal to all palates, pleasing both those who like stuctured reds with tannin and those who appreciate Merlot’s softer, more amiable side.

We drank every last drop.

About Markham Vineyards

Conscious that making good wine entails being a good steward of the environment, Markham has adapted its vineyard and cellar practices to respect local sustainability standards. Farming has been certified Napa Green Land since 2010, with certification for Napa Green Winery following suit in 2013. The estate also carries the Fish Friendly Farming seal, which protects local watersheds and the salmon and trout who spawn there, as well as songbirds, raptors, frogs, and coyotes.

Beautiful surroundings at Markham Vineyards (winery photo)

Stroll around the vineyards and you’ll find bee boxes and owl houses that support biodiversity; peek between the vine rows and you’ll see cover crops meant to limit soil erosion and protect against heat and drought. Water conservation is a major concern, and Markham is committed to recycling 100% of all wastewater.

You can read more about their green efforts on the website.

Merlot is the flagship variety at Markham and Kimberlee Nicholls, head winemaker since 1993, sees it as a great canvas on which to showcase the grape’s unique character and Napa’s terroir. After tasting the 2017 Estate Merlot, I’m eager to explore the contibutions made by each of the three vineyards included in the blend.

How to Purchase this Wine

In honor of #MerlotMe, Markham has discounted all Merlot wines 15-25%, and is offering one-cent shipping on orders of a case or more. The promotion is available through October 31, 2020 on purchases made through their website.

Thanks to #WinePW, #MerlotMe, and the wineries that participated in this year’s celebration of one of the world’s favorite grapes. I hope you’ll enjoy a few bottles of Merlot during October and, if you don’t mind, please post your tasting notes, food pairings, and favorites on social media so all of us can enjoy them too!


  1. Lauren, I’m so with you on a wine community that has each others backs. I spoke briefly with Peju, in Napa. Their winery is safe, and while their vineyards are still okay, they don’t know what the harvest will be. Regardless, they are grateful and encourage people to support Napa wineries. They are even are donating 10% of all online wine sales in October to support Fire Relief and their community!

    I am so impressed with your surf and turf pivot! I’m working on my plan for my next Merlot Pairing!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Surf and turf with Merlot! I love these continued reminders that red wine and fish can pair well together. It sounds like Markham Vineyards is not only making excellent wine but they’re really doing interesting work. I so respect people who take their stewardship of the land they farm seriously.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Perfect spontaneous adjustment Lauren! It pays to be creative in the moment. Markham is certainly doing some great things, especially fish friendly farming, an area that’s so important yet perhaps not necessarily near the top of the list. Kudos to them!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m so with you re. the wine community. It’s quite special. I also ended up with a surf and turf dish, but quite different, which is so fun to see. I also love that the Markham worked with both parts.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I would say the surf and turf worked out well! You got to taste and compare ahi tuna and steak with the Merlot. Did you have a favorite?
    Markham’s environmental stewardship is impressive! I think I need to take advantage of their #MerlotMe discount and try their Merlot!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Love the story of sending Gabe to the store and then having to change directions on meal planning. My spouse often “complains” about how stressful grocery shopping is. LOL! But everything works out in the end. Merlot to the rescue!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. It’s funny, in my mind Surf and Turf is a challenging pairing. Top of mind is Rosé Champagne. Ah, but your happy accident has opened by eyes to possibilities beyond white fleshed seafood. Don’t know why I didn’t think of red-flesh seafood before now! Sounds like a great pairing!

    Liked by 1 person

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