Comfort food… I just can’t seem to stop talking about comfort food in 2020. Warm, succulent, smoky pork dripping with sauce and embraced by a chewy, yeasty roll… yep, I’m starting to feel better already. Imagine all of those flavors and textures enrobed in a juicy, layered exhibition of the balance that can be achieved by growing one of the world’s noble grapes in one of the best places on the planet for producing wine grapes. Alright, we just might make it through this most undesirable year after all.
Merlot is one of the foundational grapes for many of the classic blended wines from the Bordeaux region in France and is often blended into the classic red wines from the Napa Valley and Sonoma County. When properly grown and vinified, Merlot can be a wonderfully complex wine without being blended with other grapes. This varietal often exhibits ample fruit flavors, including berry and cherry flavors, with soft tannins, spices and moderate levels of acidity. This composition makes Merlot a very versatile wine for pairing with a fairly wide range of foods - hard cheeses, many meats, nuts, various sauces and even dark chocolate are enhanced when coupled with this adaptable wine.
The moderate acidity in Merlot does a great job of cutting through the fattiness of the pork and the sweetness of the slaw and sauce in this recipe. The berry and fruit components of the wine are a nice complement to the tang and spiciness in the dish, and the depth matches with the onions, celery and bell peppers. The medium to extended length of the finish on a high quality Merlot will linger to dance with the intricate nuances of this complex and satisfying meal.
Many of the best Merlots from our home county are grown in the warmer regions such as Sonoma Valley, Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley and Knights Valley, but don’t seem to do as well in overly hot regions elsewhere. Merlot vines are fairly adaptable and are producing nice varietal wines from many parts of the globe including Europe, much of the West Coast of the United States, Australia and New Zealand, South America and more recently, China.
To give you an idea of why I’m eager for 2020 to be behind us, our entire crop at Stony Point Vineyard was lost due to smoke damage from this year’s fires and many of our fellow growers and vintners are in the same situation this vintage. Please remember to support our local growers and wineries when you make your wine buying decisions this fall as this has been one of the most difficult years in our collective history. But no matter what this year, or this month, or this day throws at you, remember that we live in a truly wonderful place and you can almost always make things seem a little brighter and a bit better with a comforting meal and a delicious glass of the world-class wine that’s grown right here in our backyard. Cheers!
Jeff James is the founder and co-owner, with his wife Judy, of Stony Point Vineyard and James Family Cellars. Their Cotati vineyard and winery have consistently produced award-winning wines. Jeff can be reached at info@JamesFamilyCellars.com or www.JamesFamilyCellars.com