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The Ultimate Fall Food Pairing Guide

While we love Merlot all year long, fall is a special time to embrace this fruit-driven, easy-drinking character. We asked our team to share their favorite Markham Merlot pairings and they went above and beyond with some seriously delicious details!
Four Markham red wine bottles in front of a stone wall, with two glasses of red wine. The Holiday collection.

From the perfect pick to cheer on your favorite team to the Merlot that will keep you warm by the fire on a fall night.

For a Football or Fall Gathering

As part of Team Markham for nine years, our Wine Club Concierge Nigel Cartwright knows a thing or two about Merlot. So, we can’t help feeling inspired (and increasingly hungry) by his crowd-pleasing pairing of our 2018 Napa Valley Merlot with a grilled flat iron steak complete with rosemary and blue cheese compound butter. Or what’s game-day without some BBQ? Merlot’s lovely acid, soft fruit, and medium-firm tannins are a perfect match for pork. St. Louis-Style Ribs are a crowd-pleasing dish with great structure and texture that compliments Merlot without overwhelming the wine.

Plus, with a dry rub first and then a sweet and tangy sauce to follow, there is a great contrast. The dry rubs tend to be peppery and the soft red fruit in our Merlot cools the mouth, making each part of the pairing even better than they are on their own.

Don't forget the game-day snacks!

No matter which team you’re cheering to victory, our Merlots pair fantastically with chips!

If you’ve ever visited our Tasting Room in St. Helena, “Sips & Chips” is one of our most popular winery experiences where guests get to experience how food can impact the way your wine tastes, by seeing how different chips bring out unique flavors in the matching wine. 

To elevate football festivities, host your own tasting with friends by pouring 2-3 of your favorite Markham Merlots, complete with individual bowls of yummy chips and crackers. We recommend:

  • Cool Ranch Doritos
  • Sour Cream & Cheddar Ruffles
  • White Cheddar Popcorn
  • Parmesan Crackers
  • Bacon Flavored Crackers

To start, taste the Merlot and think about the toasty aromas/flavors from the oak aging in the flavors/intensity and body/weight. Next, taste the Cool Ranch Dorito Chip. Does the chip make the Merlot tannins feel rounder, softer from the buttermilk/sour cream in the chip?

Keep this up from chip to chip, and note the insights of you and your guests. 

The Doritos are a stand-in for spiced, breaded cutlets, or a well-seasoned chicken or steak. Cheddar crackers or chips are stand-ins for cheesy loaded baked potatoes. Bacon or parmesan crackers are stand-ins for bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin or Beef Bourgogne, all of which pair beautifully with Merlots. 

For a Bountiful Harvest

Now that harvest has concluded, Vineyard and Sustainability Manager Adrienne Uboldi can’t help but be proud of all the hard work that went into the growing season. She raises a glass to her team with the Marked Parcels Yountville Ranch Merlot 2018 crafted from a single parcel on our Yountville Ranch. This rare beauty will bring out the flavor in all your favorite harvest foods, from oven-roasted squash to a simple roast chicken with caramelized veggies and crispy sage!

This dark and mysterious Merlot invites further investigation into the melted milk chocolate and brambly, blackberry aromas. Lush, jammy black fruit luxuriously melds with the dense, chewy tannins through to the end of the palate. 

Or if you’ve just pulled a bubbly bacon and gouda macaroni and cheese out of the oven, our exceptionally food-friendly The Altruist 2017 would pair famously with your ooey-gooey creation. This wine offers everything we love about Merlot: briary blackberry, mocha, and plum aromas that open to lush flavors of jammy ripe fig and baking spice, all supported by this varietal’s signature round, plush tannins.

Fall Feels with Every Meal

When there is a slight crisp feel in the air and the fall colors have spread across Napa, there is no better time to reach for one of our District Series Merlots. Assistant Winemaker Abigail Horstman keeps a bottle of our 2018 District Series Yountville Merlot straight from the Yountville District on hand to pair with anything from an elegant fall feast complete with Pot Roast or Beef Wellington to a more low-key night by a fire. Pro tip: pour a little splash of Merlot into your pan after searing your steak to deglaze your pan and create a flavorful reduction to adorn your completed Wellington or the cut of your choice. 

We find the Yountville District offers distinctly chalky tannins that aid in its age-ability. Its ripe red fruit character mingles plum, currant, and raspberry notes. Its barrel spices come across rather exotically, centering on cardamom, vanilla, and tobacco leaf.

Do you have a favorite Merlot pairing? We want to know about it! Don’t forget to share all your Markham meals and moments with us all season long using #DrinkMarkham and tagging @markham_vineyards on Instagram and @MarkhamVineyards on Facebook.

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