April 16, 2011

Merlot with Pasta and Meatballs

Merlot was the first red grape varietal that I really fell in love with. And while my wine horizons have widened, this love affair is still continuing. I started off with Merlots from California and Italy, but I am excited to also see Merlot being produced very close to home, in Virginia. I picked up a bottle of the 2008 8 Chains North Merlot right in the tasting room of the winery in Loudoun County, VA. This wine has lovely berry flavors, blackberry, red currant and cranberry, and rather firm tannins at the end. I would call it almost mouth-puckering.

The nice guy pouring the wines at the tasting counter described it as the perfect pizza and pasta wine, and I could see how it might play well with the acidity of a tomato-based sauce. So at home I decided to pair it with home-made veal meatballs in a tomato sauce with roasted red peppers. Using ground veal for the meatballs makes them very tender and almost delicate. The garnish is freshly-grated parmesan cheese and a chiffonade of basil. I served it over a colorful pasta called mother-in-law's tongue, wide ribbons of pasta. The box actually called it a "designer pasta", which I thought was funny... The Jimmy Choo of pastas, is it? Good thing I bought it while it was on sale...

The combination of the Merlot with the tomato sauce was lovely. It brought out more berry sweetness in the wine and rounded off the edges a little bit. Pairing it with food definitely made the best qualities of the wine shine. And as for the pasta, that almost goes without saying... Any pasta dish can be elevated by pairing it with a great wine! What's your favorite pasta dish?

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