It’s that time of year again! #MerlotMe! The time of year when we say, “Screw You, Miles! We love Merlot!” Each year in October (which is, BTW, International Merlot Month), Merlot enthusiasts unite and toast this wine that, due to one line in one movie, became a maligned grape for all too long. The truth is, Merlot is the softer side of Bordeaux, with notes of cherry and plum and a generosity its counterpart on the left bank of the Gironde often needs to make it approachable.
The writers at #WinePW are gathering on October 8th, led by Jeff Burrows of Food, Wine, Click, to explore the glories of Merlot. You can read Jeff’s Invitation post here, and read the articles written by the other writers below! Then join the conversation on October 8th at 8 am Pacific Time on Twitter. Just follow and use the hashtag #WinePW!
This year we hope you will join us in raising a glass of Merlot and sharing it with all of us online by tagging the photo with #MerlotMe!
I love their tagline “You had me at Merlot.”
So…let’s dig in!
The Merlot we are tasting is the
2018 L’Ecole No. 41 Merlot Walla Walla Valley
*This wine was received as a media sample. We received no other compensation, and all opinions are our own.
The blend here is 84% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2018 Merlot is 50% from their Seven Hills Vineyard and 50% from the Ferguson Vineyard. These vineyards sit on the Oregon side of the Walla Walla AVA. The soil in the Seven Hills vineyard is wind-blown loess. It’s fine and powdery, making little puffs of dust when you walk in it. Both of these vineyards sit on the Van Sickle Ridge. Seven Hills is at the base of the ridge where the winds dumped these dusty loess soils as they came over the ridge. As Ben, the L’Ecole Marketing Manager, explains, these mineral-rich soils give a silkiness to the tannins. Ferguson Vineyard, on the other hand, sits at the top of the ridge, where the soils over the basalt bedrock are thin. Most of them were blown over the edge, down into Seven Hills. Basalt is volcanic, and this is one of the most extensive basalt lava flows in the world. The basalt is fractured, which lets the roots dig down, desperate to find water. Also, because this is the top of the ridge, it gets more wind. This wind thickens the skins and makes the berries (the grapes) smaller. This gives them a greater skin-to-pulp ratio, providing them with more powerful tannins. You have this tug of war between the tannins from these sites that are so close but so different. This allows for complexity, giving you smooth, elegant tannins that glide over your palate from the Seven Hills fruit and depth and structure from the Ferguson fruit. 14.5% abv – 1070 cases produced – $36 SRP
Sustainability at L’Ecole No. 41
These two estate vineyards, Ferguson and Seven Hills are Certified Sustainable and Certified Salmon-Safe. The vineyards utilize Integrated Pest Management and do not use herbicides. Ferguson vineyard was planted with a sustainable focus, the Seven Hills was converted to sustainable practices. These vineyards support biodiversity to create healthy soils, prevent erosion and lower their carbon footprint. We spent last year tasting the wines from L’Ecole No. 41 and had an opportunity to visit these beautiful vineyards. You can find more on their wines on their site as well as our article here. Here are a couple of shots of these vineyards.
What to pair?
To decide what to pair with this, I looked to the L’Ecole tasting note
“This expressive, well-structured Merlot reveals opulent aromatics of dark cherry and blackberry, pipe tobacco, savory cedar, and roasted figs, completed with a touch of sage. Its ripe rich texture is laced with delicate graphite notes, along with bitter chocolate and plum, grounded with ample polished tannins.”
I was inspired by the dark cherry and roasted fig notes and decided to play off those.
Grilled London Broil with figs and cherries
So let’s talk about London Broil. This is not an actual cut of beef, it is the name of a method of cooking. If you see it in the grocery store, what you are buying is a lean thick cut of beef. It can be anywhere from 1 to 4 inches thick. This cut is lean and tough. So the idea is to marinate it to break down the tissue, then grill or broil to medium rare and cut against the grain to make it more tender. Doesn’t always work. My steak still came out a bit tough. If you have a cut of meat like a flank steak or skirt steak, that you like for marinating and grilling, use that. I got out my meat tenderizer mallet and pounded the steak before marinated in a mixture of herbs, garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and Worchestershire sauce, in a zip lock back for at least 4 hours. While we are waiting we make a dried fig and cherry salsa, re-hydrating the figs and cherries in hot water then dicing them up small and mixing with parsley, mint, lime, honey, olive oil, lime juice and balsamic vinegar. Make sure to take the steak out to come to room temp about 30 minutes before grilling. Then we roast up some fresh figs and cherries with rosemary, salt, pepper and olive oil. The steak gets a grill to med-rare (outside on the grill or on a grill pan on your stove). Then slice it thinly on the diagonal, top with the roasted figs and cherries and drizzle on a bit of the salsa and garnish with fresh herbs. We served this with brown butter and rosemary gnocchi. The flavors of the dark cherries and figs went beautifully with this wine. Scroll down for the full recipe.
#WinePW and #MerlotMe Here is a round of articles and recipes celebrating Merlot from the writers at #WinePW (Wine Pairing Weekend). But Merlot is flowing this month, so you can bet you will find more on each of their websites! Read on, drool a bit, then go pick up some ingredients and a Merlot and join us! Snap a photo of your wine or pairing and tag #MerlotMe!
▪Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “Merlot: Smooth, Savory and Sustainable”
▪Cindy at Grape Experiences shares “Comfort Food and Wines for Fall: Savory Slow Cooker Chicken and Classic Merlot”
▪Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Celebrating #MerlotMe with Mushrooms, Truffles, and a Wine from a Cal Alumna”
▪David at Cooking Chat shares “Everyday Pasta Sauce with Ground Beef and Chickpeas”
▪Jane at Always Ravenous shares “Fall Food Pairings with Merlot”
▪Linda at My Full Wine Glass shares “Kicking off #MerlotMe month with Napa Valley wine and lasagna soup”
▪Jennifer at Vino Travels shares “Warm up with Merlot and Pappardelle Bolognese”
▪Gwendolyn at Wine Predator…Gwendolyn Alley shares “Smoked Lamb/Beef Meatloaf Says #MerlotMe with Sonoma’s Decoy and Washington’s Pedastal”
▪Susannah at Avvinare shares “Forever A Devoted Merlot Fan“
▪Liz at What’s in that Bottle shares “Three Family-Owned Merlots for Fall“
▪Terri at Our Good Life shares “Provencal Eggplant Stew + Decoy Merlot for #MerlotMe“
▪Jeff at Food Wine Click! shares “Merlot and 40 Cloves of Garlic”
Grilled steak marinated with fresh herbs and balsamic topped with figs and cherries two ways, roasted and dried in a salsa, builds the depth of flavor that makes this dish pair beautifully with a Merlot. Serve with brown butter and rosemary gnocchi on the side.
- 1.5 lb London Broil (flank or skirt steak)
- 2 tbs unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup parsley (divided)
- 3/4 cup fresh mint (divided)
- 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (divided)
- 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar (divided)
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1/3 cup dried figs
- ¼ cup dried morello cherries
- 1 shallot (finely diced)
- ½ lime peeled and finely chopped
- ½ tsp honey
- 1 tsp of lime juice
- 6 Mission figs halved,
- ½ cup pitted black cherries
- Tenderize the steak with a meat tenderizer mallet
- Make the Marinade:
- Combine in a food processor or with an immersion blender 1/2 cup of fresh mint, 1/2 cup of fresh parsley, 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, 2 cloves of garlic, 1/3 cup of EVOO, 2 tbs balsamic vinegar & 1 tsp of Worchestershire sauce.
- Put in a zip lock bag with the steak and put in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 4 hours.
- Take this out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking to allow it to come to room temperature.
- Make the dried fig and cherry salsa:
- Rehydrate the dried figs and cherries in hot water for 15 minutes
- Drain the water and dice them up small.
- Add the finely diced shallot, 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley, 1/4 cup of fresh chopped mint, honey, 1 tbs EVOO, 1 tbs balsamic vinegar, finely chopped lime, and lime juice.
- Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
- Make the Roasted fruits:
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
- Mix the fresh halved figs, the pitted cherries, 1 tsp of finely chopped rosemary, and 2 tbs EVOO with salt and pepper to taste.
- Place on a sheet pan and roast for 20 minutes, checking after 15.
- Cook the Steak:
- Grill the steak for 3 minutes on one side
- Flip add 1 tbs of butter on top and cook for 3 more minutes
- Flip once more add 1 tbs butter and cook for 4 minutes.
- Allow to rest for 5 minutes then cut into thin slices against the grain of the meat.
- You can carve this and top with the roasted fruit and the salsa and garnish with fresh herbs, or individually plate and serve with brown butter and rosemary gnocchi.
Use your favorite cut of meat for grilling and find your favorite side!
Amount Per Serving Calories 935Total Fat 66gSaturated Fat 20gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 40gCholesterol 213mgSodium 453mgCarbohydrates 35gFiber 6gSugar 25gProtein 52g
Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.
More on Merlot from Crushed Grape Chronicles
- Celebrating Merlot Day with Silverado Vineyards 2018 Mt. George Merlot
- Merlot and Savory Cheesecake to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of St. Francis Vineyards #MerlotMe
- Continueing the #MerlotMe Celebration with Duckhorn and Massaman Curry #WinePW
- Washington Merlots from L’Ecole No. 41 paired with Fig and Shallot stuffed pork loin
- Kicking off #MerlotMe with 2 Rutherford Hill Merlots and decadent burgers with chocolate! #WinePW
- Two easy to find and affordable Merlots to celebrate #MerlotMe Month
- L’Ecole No. 41 2017 Merlot with Dinner and a Unique Dessert
- Celebrating Merlot month with a Selby Merlot from sonoma County
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine and WSET 3 Certified. 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.