Walking through my wine store, I’ve noticed that one particular style of wine doesn’t seem to move quite as briskly as Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. Yet it is quite possibly one of the finest wines out there. I’m talking about Meritage/Bordeaux.
You may be asking yourself, “What!?” Quite simply when you read or hear Meritage/Bordeaux what you want to be thinking is a red blend. To get more technical (which I hate) classically a Bordeaux blend hails from the left bank of the Gironde River in the Bordeaux region of France. Such famously expensive first-growth Chateaux like Margaux and Lafite Rothschild hail from this region and when we talk Bordeaux blend we are talking about five main grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc that are blended in different percentages to create these expensive wines.
Alas, they don’t always have to be expensive, and the rich aren’t the only part of society that gets to enjoy these magnificent blends because there are Bordeaux in every price range. I hope you are all taking notes—there will be a test. However, France doesn’t have the monopoly on expensive Bordeaux blends.
Tuscany is another region that has famously expensive, almost out-of reach for us regular folk wine. In that region is a beautiful town located in the province of Livorno on the western coast of Italy called Bolgheri. It’s most famously known for the crazy-expensive Sassicaia, which is a Bordeaux style blend; and the town is lesser known for bird-watching, which I guess is fun as long as you have a glass of wine in your hands.
So we’re all experts on the five grapes that get blended to create Bordeaux for left bank first-growth Chateaux. Excellent, let’s move on to Meritage, America’s version of the Bordeaux blend without getting into a bunch of legal mumbo-jumbo including cease and desist letters from Bordeaux and a possible international wine incident for infringing on their legal right to the term “Bordeaux blend”. Anyway, Meritage being an American blend is not relegated to only five grapes to blend with no wiggle room. No sir—we have the wine freedom to interpret and be creative with the Meritage blend. Quite simply it can be any blend of red grapes as long as it totally rocks taste wise. Doesn’t that sound like a wine you want to drink? There are too many taste profiles to explain. So I’ll leave you with the invite to come taste some great Meritage wines this Friday and Saturday from noon-8pm at my wine store Off the Vine in Norwalk.
Of course I have three great Meritage recommendations to pair with Westport-based Splash Restaurant Executive Chef Dave Repp’s recipe below.
Whitman Cellars 2003 Narcissa Red blend Washington State, $12.99 two for $22.99, 2004 Buzzard Tree Meritage Paso Robles California, $15.99, and 2005 Spann Vineyards Mo Zin red blend, $21.99.
WILD MUSHROOM RISOTTO
serves 4 as a side or 2 as an entree
- 2 cups mixed sliced mushrooms
- ½ cup dried porcini mushrooms roughly chopped
- 5 cups chicken stock
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 1 medium yellow onion diced
- ¼ lb unsalted butter
- 2 cups dry white wine
- 1 cup parmesan cheese
1)in a medium sauce pan add the dried porcini mushrooms to the chicken stock and bring to a quick boil turn of the burner and let sit
2) in a medium sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter and sauté and season the onions and mixed fresh mushrooms
3) using a wooden spoon stir in the Arborio rice and add the wine and season with kosher salt , keep stirring
4) When the wine is ¾ absorbed stir in 1 cup of the hot mushroom stock. When the stock is almost fully absorbed, stir in another cup of hot mushroom stock. Repeat the process until the chicken stock is gone then stir in the parmesan cheese and season with kosher salt and pepper. If the risotto is too thick you can thin it down with hot water.
Use a wooden spoon. It won’t cut or mash up the rice
Constantly stirring the risotto pulls out the starch that gives risotto its creaminess.