Taste! It’s no surprise that most folks in the wine industry are a little unnaturally obsessed with food and we at Reininger Winery are absolutely not an exception. We get excited about it all, from party planning for our wine club to having after work bbq’s on the crush pad or just looking forward to leftovers eaten at our desks in the office. This enthusiasm has led to many, many hours spent looking for recipes for various wine pairings. Since we are focusing a bit on Walla Walla Valley Merlot and all of its deliciousness, I’ll share a few of our tips for pairing this rich and velvety varietal with some great foods.
- Walla Walla Valley Merlots – especially Reininger – trend towards soft, lush, and smooth with juicy red fruits (think raspberry and currant) and earth, making them perfect for a meal that is too delicate for bigger reds such as Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon.
- Consider the intensity of the Merlot you’re planning to drink and match your meal to that. Merlot definitely has a range depending on the winemaker and style, so one could be fantastic with grilled ribeye but overpower spring lamb chops.
- Pork, salmon, bacon, mushrooms, grilled veggies, savory greens like swiss chard, and bitter foods such as radicchio and olives pair beautifully with a Merlot from a Walla Walla Valley winery.
- When looking for recipes, consider going to the roots. Merlot is a Bordeaux grape, so natural pairings will come from that region (Perigord truffles and duck, anyone?)…et voilá!
- Don’t forget that there are fantastic non-meat foods to pair with Merlot. Mushrooms and blue cheese are two excellent and super flavorful matches for Walla Walla Merlot (and would make an excellent tart when paired together).
- Complicated doesn’t always equal awesome. Keep it simple to let the ingredients speak.
- Don’t get too wrapped up in it. It’s hard to go wrong when you buy good ingredients and prepare them lovingly, then serve them with a fantastic wine.
Next post: a perfect recipe to pair with a fantastic classic Walla Walla Valley Merlot!
Vineyard Pests 101
When we think of destruction and decimation, we usually think of big menacing forces. In the wine world though, it’s often the smallest bug or nematode that can be the biggest threat. Do you remember when we told you about the history of Carmenere (before it was lost)? As you recall, the initial reason Carmenere disappeared was a massive phylloxera blight. One of the reasons it wasn’t replanted was the varietals susceptibility to coulure and powdery mildew. If you’re asking “what are phylloxera, coulure, and powdery mildew?” you are in luck. Here is our handy brief guide to some of wine grapes’ biggest threats. Just try not to pull these facts out at your next wine tasting, we dare you!
Part of the reason we at Reininger love Merlot, is that we are in the perfect place to grow it. The Walla Walla Valley is an amazing location for growing Merlot grapes, and we’ll tell you why. As a disclaimer, we are obviously biased, but we don’t like to spend a lot of time bashing California wine. It’s not our style, and they make some amazing wines down there. That being said, California’s climate is just not ideal for growing Merlot, and we’ll explain that to you to in as neutral a voice as we can manage. This lesson on the 2007 Reininger Merlot is all about location.
The plump, lush fruitiness of Merlot helps explain its popularity and subsequent frequent planting. Although Merlot is one of the most planted red varietals in the world, we maintain that all terroirs are not created equal. The terroir of the Walla Walla valley is wonderfully suited to creating lush, deep Merlots. As of 2007, Merlot was the second most planted grape in the Walla Walla AVA (What’s an AVA? Catch up here), making up 26% of all grapes planted. Merlot showed an affinity for the Walla Walla Valley growing conditions early on, attracting critical acclaim and notice. Wine writer Leslie Sbrocco proclaims the union of Merlot and Washington State to be “a marriage made in heaven”. The long sunny days and cool nights lend Washington Merlot grapes the necessary time to gradually develop complexity and ripeness without sacrificing acidity. The sunny basin of the Columbia Valley created well-structured, ripe flavored, fruity Merlots.
The Walla Walla Valley in particular is a prime spot within the Columbia Valley. Sbrocco praises Walla Walla Merlot’s as being “intense, voluptuous and velvety… as Pomerol-like as you can get outside France”. Washington Merlots tend to differ from California Merlots based upon bright fruit flavors and relatively crisp acidity.
California does produce some good Merlots, but their growing climates are just not as well suited and therefore do not have the same potential as Walla Walla or Bordeaux. California’s Merlot plantings were largely a result of the frenetic trendiness of Merlot in the 1990′s, which we talked about here, rather than a well inclined terroir. Many wine scholars question the suitability of Merlot to California, especially due to the warmth of the soil, citing numerous examples of bland wines that damage the varietal’s reputation in general. The quality of California Merlot’s suffered greatly in the late 1990′s when demand for the varietal radically outstripped the supply, tempting many growers to use wine making techniques to stretch their yields in less than optimal ways. To be fair, some very skilled growers are coaxing out fantastic California Merlots, namely from Napa’s Stags Leap District, the Russian River Valley and the Santa Ynez Valley. These good quality California Merlot’s are typically blended with small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon in order to soften the tannins.
The 2007 Reininger Merlot is a shining example of the best Walla Walla has to offer. Order some here today to see what the buzz is all about!
The beloved varietal of Merlot has proven its worth for centuries. Although steeped in deep history, Merlot remains relevant and popular today. As you know from our previous post, Merlot is one of the classic Bordeaux noble grape varieties. The title of noble grape was not bestowed lightly. In order to be considered a noble grape, a grape had to be both versatile, able to be grown all over the world, and produce quality wine without blending with other varietals. Despite its fantastic flavor and potential, Merlot was mainly used as a blending varietal until the 1970′s, when a Californian winemaker decided to turn the varietal into a star. Merlot really took off in the 1990′s following the “60 Minute” report on the French Paradox, which we talked about earlier. Merlots were often the chosen varietal for people looking to find an approachable, delicious red wine.
Although Merlot has long been noted for its easy drinkability, don’t think that means a lack of complexity! Letie Teague of Food and Wine Magazine explained “the best Washington Merlots combine the ripe, lush fruit of the New World with the structure and acidity of the Old World, resulting in complex, well-balanced wines.” Not to toot our own horn, but the Reininger 2007 Merlot is a perfect example of this. Reininger Merlot’s have been winning award and getting top scores ever since we started making them. You can read the whole list here, but we’ll sum it up to say that our Merlot’s consistently score points of 90 or above from sources such as the Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast.
Our 2007 Merlot is nothing short of the epitome of Walla Walla’s best. The 2007 Reininger Merlot’s lush aromas of mixed red berries and smoke swirl out of the glass, melding with a bouquet of rose petals, thyme and lavender. Flavors of spices, cherries, red licorice leap onto your palate, fading to leave a velvety chocolate finish. This deep medium-full bodied red will mesmerizes with mouth-watering acidity.
There’s nothing contradictory about why wine drinkers across the globe love Merlot. Good quality Merlot, such as the Reininger 2007 Merlot, is lush and fruity, easy to drink and savor. Despite its renown and popularity today, Merlot was not a well-known in the United States until the 1970′s. As discussed previously (link to Bordeaux blog), Merlot was traditionally produced in Bordeaux as a blending wine, a key component, though by no means the only star of French “Bordeaux”. In the 1970′s, the Californian Louis M. Martini Winery initiated the trend to bottle and market Merlot as a single varietal. The wine was well received by those looking for a drinkable, approachable red.
Although Merlot was well-liked, it was in the early 1990′s that the varietal launched to the superstar status it maintains today. The catalyst to this boom in popularity was the 60 Minutes television report of the “French Paradox”. Scientist’s had discovered that despite the high-fat diets often consumed in France, they had over-all lower levels of heart disease. The explanation was partially attributed to the population’s frequent consumption of red wine. The presence of resveratrol and poplyphenols in red wine resulted in a reduction of fat levels. Not surprisingly, this prescription was very well received by Americans, who rushed in droves to apply the wisdom of the French. Due to it’s easy, smooth drinkability, Merlot was often the red wine of choice.
As demand quickly rose, increasing numbers of Merlot grapes were planted in California to boost supply. Subsequent over-planting and increased production of Merlot led to a decrease of California quality levels, and many flat and uninspiring Merlots made their way into the marketplace. Furthermore, although Merlot ripens best in cooler climates, the vast majority is raised in California’s warm Central Valley. Merlot with more character is produced in California’s North Coast wine district, bit it is often very expensive and limited in supply.
Walla Walla and Columbia Valley growers joined the craze of the 1980′s, and for good reason: Washington’s cooler climate is ideally suited to growing Merlot. Today it is arguably Washington’s most important red grape. The quality and consistency of Washington Merlot has raised the bar, and consumers are becoming more discerning. The Reininger 2007 Merlot is one such wine that emphasizes traditional quality, with zingy acidity and concentrated flavors. The Walla Walla Valley is an amazing place to grow Merlot, probably the best outside of Bordeaux (we’ll tell you more about that soon), and lends itself to the production of sumptuous Pomerol-esque Merlots.
So be discerning in your Merlot selection. Wine stores and grocery stores are filled with variety, and it can be hard to avoid the more lackluster Merlots. We might be biased, but the Reininger 2007 Walla Walla Valley Merlot is a true star, full of fantastic, vibrant flavors and aromas.
Our third and final wine of focus is on another noble grape, this time Merlot. Merlot was traditionally grown in Bordeaux, and today is one of the world’s most widely planted varieties. We can say with great confidence, that Merlot is perfectly suited to the growing conditions of the Walla Walla Valley, just as it is to Bordeaux. Full of rich and juicy flavors, Merlot is a best seller in fine restaurants and pairs well with many foods. The 2007 Reininger Merlot is a lush and powerful wine, reminiscent of a classic Pomerol.
Although some scholars claim Merlot grapes can be traced back to the 1st century in France, references to the noble variety emerged in the 1800’s. As mentioned in the first Chardonnay post, a noble variety must be capable of producing high quality wine without blending, which tells us that Merlot produces fantastic wine on its own. However, due to its stable and hearty nature, Merlot was historically used as a key blending varietal. Originally, Bordeaux wine sales were mainly exports to Britain and Northern Europe, made accessible through Atlantic Ocean trade routes. The nature of the export trade necessitated the type of grapes cultivated, insofar as the wines needed to be hearty in order to weather the long ocean voyages and remain drinkable upon reaching their final destinations.
As previously mentioned, the terroir of the Walla Walla Valley produces some of the world’s best Merlot. We’ll tell you more about that soon, but for now, you can taste the proof for yourself and order a bottle of Reininger 2007 Merlot.
We hope you’ve enjoyed the employee profiles we’ve shared recently. But enough about us, let’s talk about wine! Reininger makes a wine from a very rare lost grape variety with a history full of tales of mystery and discovery. Lost in Bordeaux, found in Chile, and thriving in Walla Walla, this intriguing grape is Carmenere. More to the point, you can find this amazing grape at Reininger, in the Reininger 2007 Carmenere.
The storied Carmenere is one of the oldest European wine grape varietals. Although some scholars assert there are allusions to this vine in ancient Roman and Iberian texts, Carmenere is commonly thought to have originated in the Médoc region of Bordeaux, France. Historically, the Carmenere grape was widely cultivated in Bordeaux where it was typically used as a blending variety. The excellent quality of wines produced from Carmenere grapes helped establish the lasting reputation of some of the best Bordeaux vineyards.
The widespread reign of Carmenere tumbled with the invasion of the 1867 Phylloxera plague, an invasion of minuscule pests that decimated the vast majority of grape vines in France. After the Phylloxera plague, Carmenere was almost impossible to find in Bordeaux, and the low yields of the remaining vines led growers to abandon the grape in favor of heartier varieties. The Phylloxera destruction, and subsequent abandonment of Carmenere vines led to the common belief that Carmenere was an extinct variety, lost forever to history.
Obviously the Carmenere grape wasn’t entirely extinct, as we have some for sale here.