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Bottled Up: Don't dismiss Merlot as a fall wine

Bottled Up: Don't dismiss Merlot as a fall wine


As a wine enthusiast, I’m always surprised how in such time-tested, tradition-based wine industry there’s much that sways with public preferences and perceptions. Chardonnay and Merlot in the 1980s both suffered from the experimental early beginnings of the California wine-making and leaves the grape still avoided by many whenever it’s encountered on a wine list. Merlot is a wonderful grape of noble origins that offers the robust dark fruit flavors bold red wines like Cabernet but with much more moderate tannins. It is these qualities that give the Merlot grape the reputation for being great for food pairings and makes it a very versatile selection when pairing with fall favorites. Grown across the globe from Bordeaux where it is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Italian regions such as Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, and even common in New World regions of California, Washington, Chile, and Australia.

Hailing from Geyserville, California located in the Alexander Valley in Sonoma County, the wines of Trentadue Winery are a wonderful addition to any fall meal. Established in the 1950s, the winery was created by the Trentadue family, formerly fruit producers of Italian descent. The family, who decided to leave what is now the Silicon Valley in an effort to maintain their love of the land and farming way of life, established the winery and began farming and producing wines from vines some of which dating back to 1886.

Now producing stellar wines for more than 55 years, the wine making at Trentadue is guided by veteran winemaker Miro Tcholakov, who strives to allow every vintage to define and express itself in the final product of the wine. Allowing the nuances of the terroir, grape, and vintage variation to shine in each and every bottle. Bridging the gap between modern day wine making techniques with time-tested traditions of old world producers, Tcholakov, creates wines with a focus on sustainable growing practices and desire to perfect its wines for enjoyment in the years to come.

The 2016 La Storia Merlot (retail $25) is no exception to the standards and commitment of the winery. A beautiful ruby color as the wine rests in your glass aromas of blackberry, ripe plum, and cherry greet your nose as it delicately swirls in your glass. Tasting this wine, this dry and full body red showcases mellow fruit flavors of blackberry, cherry, and vanilla accompanied by tobacco, and herbaceous, earthy notes of bay leaves. As this wine rests on your tongue you can feel the round-body qualities it possesses while not overly bold. Moderate in tannin and acidity, this wine is a perfect example of the fruity and versatile qualities of a classic Merlot wine.

When you’re pairing this, or any other Merlot it’s important to look at the qualities in the dish that you are paring. Look to pair with dishes that showcase fruit forward qualities present also in the wine. Pan-seared duck breast with cherry or blueberry sauce, roast pork or BBQ with sweet BBQ sauces, steakhouse burgers with caramelized onions and mushrooms and even classic fall beef stew. The moderate tannins in the wine make this a perfect food pairing wine, while the medium body fruit-forward qualities allow it to stand up next to more bold fare that are common with fall favorites.

While Merlot may have had a brief lapse in palate preferences it is certainly a grape that should not be dismissed from any home wine collection this fall. As a perfect wine for fall pairings you can bet that, La Storia, will be in my cellar and on my table for the rest of the season.

Carson Bodnarek, a self-proclaimed “cork dork”, is a certificate recipient from the Court of Master Sommeliers and is currently studying for his certified CMS exam. Always on the hunt for his next great bottle of wine for his collection, he is an avid jetsetter and devout foodie. After moving to Quad-Cities from Iowa City in 2013, Carson now resides in Bettendorf.

Contact Carson Bodnarek at 563-383-2299 or


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Carson Bodnarek, a self-proclaimed “cork dork”, is a certificate recipient from the Court of Master Sommeliers and is currently studying for h…

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