Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Merlot and Malbec with Sausages from the Grill

This is the 11th year of my Merlot and Sausage Challenge, and we continue the October tradition of tasting juicy and flavorful Merlot and Malbec wines and blends with sausages and the darling dumpling of Germany... Spaetzle. If you haven’t enjoyed this pasta-noodle-like creation – finished with flavorful cheese, mushrooms and spice, then cook some yourself or head over to a nearby German restaurant. Sausages for this week included selections from Aidells including Pineapple and Bacon, Italian Style and the new Italian Style Margherita from their Whole Blends collection. 

Merlot is a red wine variety whose name is a diminutive of the French word for blackbird. This association is thought to have been made due to the dark skin color of the ripe Merlot fruit. Merlot is the most widely planted grape in Bordeaux and is the third most grown variety on the globe. 

Malbec is the Bordeaux blending variety most often presented as a standalone wine, and has become very popular in the New World – most notable is the U.S. and Argentina’s Mendoza growing area. The wine offers complex flavors most reminiscent of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Outside in the wine world, harvest is under way and it is a great time to put on your Gortex and visit the Northwest wine country.  Visit for the latest travel information and wine country happenings.

DeLille Cellars 2016 D2, Columbia Valley - $45

This vintage marks the 25th anniversary of the creation of the D2 blend. This 25th anniversary vintage will be officially celebrated on December 2, 2019. Check out the winery website – – for all the history and details. My tasters rated this wine at the top of the flight for its complex aromas and flavors and superb structure. Look for plum, pomegranate and dark cherry with notes of graphite and warm spices.

Abacela 2016 Malbec, Estate, Umpqua Valley - $30

Earl and Hilda Jones established their vineyard and winery in Oregon’s Umpqua Valley in 1996 chasing their dream of growing world-class Tempranillo in America. The growth of the project over decades added other varieties including Malbec. My tasters enjoyed aromas and flavors of cranberry, cherry and blackberry with spicy notes from French oak aging.

L’Ecole No 41 2016 Merlot, Estate: Ferguson, Seven Hills - $36

This superb Merlot comes from two of the finest vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley AVA. Seven Hills Vineyard was planted in the 1980s and 1990s, and the Ferguson Vineyard – named to honor founders Baker and Jean Ferguson – was planted beginning in 2008. This wine offers the quintessential Merlot style of Walla Walla – ripe dark cherry, plum and blackberry with notes of coffee, tobacco leaf, dark chocolate and earthy mineral.

Rutherford Hill 2015 Barrel Select, Napa Valley - $38

This elegant Napa Valley Merlot is blended with a splash of each of the other Bordeaux varieties. Aging in French oak for 18 months mellowed the wine and added notes of earthy toast, caramel and vanilla. Look for rich aromas and flavors of cherry and plum with notes of licorice, dill and baking spices.

Freemark Abbey 2015 Merlot, Napa Valley - $34

The Freemark Abbey winery was originally founded in St. Helena, in the Napa Valley in 1876 by Josephine Tychson, one of the first women winegrowers on record. A revival of the winery after prohibition saw the current name created by partners Charles Freeman, Markquand Foster and Abbey Ahern – a combination of their names. The flavorful 2015 Merlot offers classic cherry, berry, milk chocolate and spicy oak.

Harbinger Winery 2014 Malbec, Wahluke Slope - $28

Energetic winemaker/owner Sara Gagnon continues to produce excellent wines at her facility on Highway 101 in Port Angeles, Washington. As a native of the Olympic Peninsula, Sara enjoys kayaking and mountain biking through the associated company Adventures through Kayaking. The label of this wine reminds me of the Northwest Ravens that I hear each morning at our cabin on Camano Island. Sara’s Malbec offers rich plum and cranberry with cassis, vanilla and spice.

Mike Januik, Winemaker

Januik Wines 2016 Merlot, Klipsun Vineyard - $35

To old Washington wine lovers like me, Klipsun Vineyard on Red Mountain offers memories of many rich and complex red wines that have added to Washington’s reputation as a world class wine region. Add to this grape source the talents of veteran winemaker Mike Januik and you can count on a memorable wine. Voluptuous red and black fruits mingle with notes of spicy oak, caramel and vanilla to pair perfectly with sausages of all types.

Gascon 2016 Malbec, Reserva, Mendoza, Argentina - $22

The wines of Don Miguel Gascon are crafted in the City of Mendoza at the same winery that was built by the Spanish visionary whose name bears it.  The winery was begun in 1884 but now houses some of the most advanced winemaking technology in the world.  This Reserva Malbec was another top-ranked wine with tasters who enjoyed its layers of flavors of ripe plum, dark cherry and berry with notes of cocoa and peppery spice.

Griffin Creek 2015 Malbec, Rogue Valley - $45

Griffin Creek wines come from the parent company Willamette Valley Vineyards, though they are crafted almost exclusively from grapes grown in the warmer, southern part of Oregon. Look for aromas and flavors of blueberry and blackberry with jammy dark fruits, vanilla and floral notes.

Waterbrook 2016 Malbec, Reserve - $24

Winemaker John Freeman crafted this Malbec from grapes grown at a variety of esteemed vineyards in Washington’s Columbia Valley AVA. He added a splash (7%) of Cabernet Sauvignon and aged the wine in American oak, 24% new. My tasters enjoyed the toasty notes of vanilla and coconut that cocoon the ripe cherry and huckleberry core of this wine, and the added complex notes of pepper, pipe tobacco and dried figs.

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