The Merlots just keep coming! I know it’s not still October, but we are still celebrating #MerlotMe!
*This wine was received as a media sample. All opinions remain our own.
The St. Francis Reserve Merlot 2018 from Sonoma arrived and I found that I needed to create another Merlot pairing. I looked back on some of the surprising moments with our other Merlot pairings and a bite of cheesecake with berries, had been a surprisingly good match. I pondered on a dessert pairing and started cheesecake research.
As I always look for the unexpected, I found myself searching for savory cheesecake recipes. But first, let me tell you about the wine.
Established in 1971, St. Francis Vineyard is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year and has a storied history.
Joe Martin planted 22 acres of Chardonnay and 60 acres of Merlot in the Sonoma Valley in 1971 and sold his grapes as a grower before opening the winery in 1979 with Lloyd Canton.
In the late ’80s, the winery partnered with the Kopf Family. Rudy Kopf founded the Macy’s Wine & Spirits department in New York, following prohibition. His three daughters now own the wine and spirits company he later established.
Today after 50 years the winery farms over 380 Sustainable acres of vineyards within the Sonoma and Russian River Valley and works with other Sonoma Growers. The winery remains family-owned with winemakers Katie Madigan, Chris Louton at the helm and Director of Vineyards Jake Terrell
St. Francis 2018 Reserve Merlot Sonoma
Fruit for this wine hails from the Sonoma Valley and is sourced from the Dinner Vineyard on Sonoma Mountain, the Murray Vineyard on Sonoma Mountains east-facing benchland, and Wild Oak Estate Vineyard on the Valley floor. The various sites blend structure and softness.
The wine is 100% Merlot, aged 20 months in 42% New French Oak.
14.9% abv – 390 cases produced (I did say this was a Reserve!) – $41.99 (Wine.com)
The wine was deep with black plum, black cherry, and black pepper. Whiffs of nutmeg and an underlying cedar, chocolate, and a bit of charred wood. There was also a savory meat note that gave the wine complexity. This is a wine that will age and mellow and continue to become more complex. It was still juicy with the complexity integrated.
The Pairing – Savory Cheesecake with Gouda and Bacon topped with a Savory Berry Swirl
I love the fruit swirls on the top of cheesecakes. It was one of those fruit-swirled cheesecakes that set me on the road for this pairing. I also love the romance of baked cheesecake. Cheesecake is delicious in any form, but the elegance and warmth of a baked cheesecake, well that seems extra decadent.
I found this recipe from Beemster Cheese and adapted it to fit my flavor profile.
The crust is a mix of pork rinds and bread crumbs (heavy on the pork rinds) and I used aged gouda as the only hard cheese. The swirl was a mix of blueberry/blackberry jam, Worcestershire sauce, and reduced balsamic vinegar. (the recipe is below)
This dish is rich, very rich, and is best accompanied by a salad to make you feel better about yourself while eating it! Be aware that on top of the Prep and cooking time you should allow it to rest in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours to allow all the flavors to integrate. I’ll be honest, I didn’t leave it for all 4 hours and it was still delicious. However, as you can only eat a small slice because it is so rich, I have been enjoying left overs which get better by the day.
It was heavenly with the wine, the gouda, and the bacon pulling out those savory notes from the wine and the savory fruit swirl elevating the pairing.
This delicious dish is not for the faint of heart! It is rich and delicious and should be eaten with a salad (to make you feel better about yourself). With a crust of pork rinds and rich cheese and bacon inside, we do a savory berry swirl on the top. This is perfect for a large party, because everyone will only be able to eat a small piece, it is very filling, but sooooo gooood! We say it will feed 12, but you can easily feed 16 with this. We riffed on a recipe from Beemster Cheese.
- ¾ cup ground pork rinds and or crackers (I used ½ pork rinds and ½ everything crackers)
- 3 tbs of butter melted
- 4 ½ - 8 oz packages of crème cheese
- 5 large eggs
- 8 oz of finely grated aged gouda
- ½ lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp white pepper
- 2 tbs berry jam (I used blueberry/blackberry)
- ½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp reduced balsamic vinegar (I use the pre-made balsamic glaze)
- Mix the cracker or pork rind crumbs with the butter and press into the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan.
- In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix the crème cheese until soft and fluffy
- Stir in the grated gouda
- Add the eggs one at a time, mixing and then scaping down the sides of the bowl and the paddle before adding the next.
- Add the salt & pepper and mix to incorporate
- Stir in the bacon
- Pour into the springform pan on top of your crust.
- Mix the berry jam, Worcestershire sauce, and balsamic reduction
- Spoon in a spiral on the top of the cheesecake. Use a skewer or chopstick to swirl this into a design of sorts on the top.
- Bake at 350 for 1 to 1.5 hours (start checking for doneness after 1 hr 10 minutes)
- Allow to cool to room temperature. Chill for 4 hours before serving to incorporate the flavors.
Don't forget to get your cream cheese out early to allow it to come to room temperature.
To make your own crumbs for the crust, toss the pork rinds or crackers into the food processor and pulse.
Amount Per Serving Calories 585Total Fat 47gSaturated Fat 25gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 18gCholesterol 217mgSodium 1286mgCarbohydrates 5gFiber 0gSugar 2gProtein 35g
Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.
Check out some of our other Merlot pairings for #MerlotMe
- Two easy to find and affordable Merlots to celebrate #MerlotMe Month
- Continueing the MerlotMe Celebration with Duckhorn and Massaman Curry
- Kicking off #MerlotMe with 2 Rutherford Hill Merlots and decadent burgers with chocolate
- Merlot from 2 big name companies that are worth finding for different reasons
- Celebrating Merlot Month with a Selby Merlot from Sonoma County
- Merlot from elegant to badass. Time to #MerlotMe with #WinePW
- Washington Merlots from L’Ecole No. 41 paired with Fig and Shallot stuffed pork loin
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.