It’s called MERITAGE. It rhymes with HERITAGE. o

Meritage - it rhymes with Heritage!A pet peeve of many a wine aficionado is the frequent mispronunciation of the word “Meritage”.  This word appears on some of the best red blends you can find.  But it is a made-up word.

The Meritage Association was formed in 1988 by a handful of progressive Napa vintners.  They’d grown frustrated with our domestic requirement that a wine contain at least 75% of a specific grape in order to list that varietal on the label (Cabernet, Chardonnay, etc). And because the U.S. wine drinker had been used to seeing this for 60 years, even the best blended wines were seen as inferior if they didn’t have a grape variety listed on the label.

So the Association undertook something never tried before – creating ultra-premium wines using the blending practices of Bordeaux and a unique brand that fit the high quality of the wine.

The Alliance held a naming contest for the new brand, generated 300+ entries, and ended up adopting the word “Meritage” (but don’t Frenchify its pronunciation!  The word rhymes with “Heritage” – a combination of Merit and Heritage). Given the alliance’s Bordelaise inspiration, all red Meritage wines must be a blend of the classic Bordeaux grapes – Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petite Verdot. Now in its 24th year, the alliance has grown to over 250 wineries, each supporting the alliance with a percentage of sales on every bottle of Meritage wine.

Here’s an excellent example of a Meritage wine – the 2008 Meritage from Trinitas.  This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (54%), Merlot (19%), Cabernet Franc (17%), and Malbec (10%).  Soft tannins combine with intense fruit flavors of black currant, blackberries, plums, and cocoa. The winemaker describes this wine as “full, supple, and rich with a lengthy finish that will leave you lingering for more.”

The wine begins with fruit from the heart of Napa Valley – the Oak Knoll AVA, known for its variety of soil types, each lending a slightly different profile to Oak Knoll wines, which are identifiable by their full-flavored, intense fruit profiles. The Trinitas winemaker amplified this fruit-forward profile by cold-soaking the grapes prior to fermentation and by using a slow, cool fermentation. This technique not only aids in color extraction, it emphasizes fruit flavors and aromas. And following the tradition of great Bordeaux, the wine is aged for 22 months in 100% New French Oak.

Buy it here.

Cheers!

Dave the Wine Merchant

Merlot with Braised Beef Short Ribs

When this marinade and slow-cooking process are used on a cut of meat with lots of well-marbled fat and connective tissue (Flank or Top Round are also fine) the resulting flavor and mouthfeel are perfect for this wine.  I again employ my secret ingredient – vanilla – which echoes the flavor of the wine. It really works!

Note: This recipe originally appeared as an insert with my October, 2009 club shipment.  Click here to see wines that pair well with this recipe.

Ingredients

6 Lbs beef short ribs 4 Ozs dried cherries
¼ Cup flour ¼ Cup fresh Thyme sprigs
½ Cup olive oil, divided 4 Sage leaves, fresh
3 Cups chopped onion 3 Bay leaves
2 Cups chopped carrots 2 Cups Merlot (don’t use the good stuff!)
2 Cups chopped celery 4 Cups low-sodium beef broth
8 Cloves garlic, peeled 1-2 tsp Balsamic Vinegar
1 scant tsp Vanilla

Procedure
Preheat oven to 300°.  Put ribs in large bowl and coat well with salt, pepper, and flour.  Heat a heavy Dutch oven or stock pot over medium-high heat for ~4 minutes.  Add half the olive oil and brown ribs all over, working in batches.  Set browned ribs aside.

Add remaining oil to empty pot and, when hot, add the Mirepoix (the holy trinity of onion, carrot and celery).  Cook until softened, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic, dried cherries  and the herbs and combine well.  Deglaze the pot with the red wine then return ribs to the pot.  Bring to a simmer and reduce for about five minutes.  Add the broth, cover, and place in oven to braise until ribs are tender – check after two hours but plan for three.

Remove from oven and let stand for 15 minutes.  Remove ribs and set aside (try to keep them on the bone!), and remove Thyme sprigs and Bay leaves.  Pour remaining ingredients into a food mill (or pulse in a food processor six or seven times until finely chunked), then return to pot.   Spoon off any fat, season to taste with salt and pepper, then add balsamic and Vanilla.  Return ribs to sauce until warmed through, serve with extra sauce spooned over ribs.

Serving Suggestion: Stand the ribs upright in mashed potatoes, spoon remaining sauce over both, and serve with a side dish of sautéed spinach.

Happy MerchantCheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant

Note: This recipe originally appeared as an insert with my October, 2009 shipment to members of my “Grand Cru Selections” sampling program.

Click here to see my current inventory of wines that pair well with this recipe.