October is a wonderful month for wine lovers: depending on where you live, it’s harvest time (or maybe just after). And it’s especially exciting for Merlot lovers!
#MerlotMe celebrates one of the world’s favorite grapes with special tastings, promotions, and wine pairing events throughout the month. Our Wine Pairing Weekend (#WinePW) group of bloggers joins in each month, sharing delicious ways to enjoy Merlot with food.
I was fortunate to receive several bottles of Merlot as samples this year, and have been impressed with each one I’ve tasted so far. Many of us – even in the wine world – forget how versatile the grape is; it’s grown almost everywhere and can be light and fruity or strong and structured, depending on growing conditions and who’s in the cellar. Whether your taste runs more toward right bank Bordeaux or Napa Valley, there’s a Merlot that will please your palate.
Beginning in 1987, Bonterra committed to organic farming methods, believing that fostering biodiversity in the vineyards exerted positive effects on the grapes, allowing pure varietal character to come through in the wines. If you stroll through the vines, you’ll notice pops of color here and there: native flowers blossom between the rows, attracting beneficial insects and birds. And you might come across a chicken or two, or even a sheep! Both contribute to the vineyard’s ecosystem – the chickens eating harmful pests, and the sheep trimming the grass that grows around the vines. Nature’s lawnmowers, if you will.
“We passionately believe that farms teeming with biodiversity – encompassing vines, insects and wildlife, and healthy soils – yield better wines.”
Bonterra Winemaker Jeff Cichocki
The 2018 Merlot is a blend of fruit grown on estate vineyards in Mendocino County and fruit sourced from Paso Robles and Lake County. Each region leaves its stamp on the wine: tart red fruit from the cooler Mendocino plots; riper black fruit from Paso; and some structure and body from Lake County. Each sip brings a new layer of flavor.
After alcoholic fermentation, the wine underwent malolactic conversion and was aged for 18 months in a mix of French and American oak barrels (about 50% first use.)
Tasting Notes 2018 Bonterra Organic Vineyards California Merlot (13.9% abv; $16 SRP)
Color: Deep ruby all the way to the rim.
Nose: A lovely blend of red and black fruit, some tart and fresh, some ripe and heady; a sprinkling of dried thyme; just a hint of vanilla and clove.
Palate: Tart strawberry and plum flavors mix with softer blackberry; moderate acidity and soft tannins. Structurally balanced, this medium-bodied wine is lovely on its own or with simple grilled meat or a salad.
The Bonterra Merlot was outstanding with a fresh fig and berry salad one night, and just as tasty served alongside a cast-iron seared pork chop with a dried-herb rub the next. I’d happily indulge in both again.
Stay tuned for more #MerlotMe pairings in October (I’ve got at least three more!)
What’s your favorite Merlot-food combo? I’d love to hear from you!
Note: If you’d like to learn more about Bonterra and their other wine projects, vineyards, and brands, please check out a post I wrote in 2018 that delves into all of the above!