Friday, November 1, 2019

#MerlotMe with Rutherford Hill and Mercer Bros. Merlots and Impress me with Chinese-style Roast Duck #WinePW

When I learned about the invite for #MerlotMe in the month of October from Jeff of Food Wine Click, I immediately signed up for samples and looked forward to some quality tasting of Merlots. To be very honest, Merlots are not my go-to reds. It’s not because of the ripple effect of Sideways, the movie that curses Merlots. The real reason is that I haven’t had any luck to get hold of and taste high-quality Merlots. The ones that are sold in my nearby stores have no personality and no “hooks” that entice me.
Things are changing up here when I received these few samples (i.e., Rutherford Hills 2015 Merlot, Rutherford Hills 2018 Rose of Merlot (Limited Release), and Mercer Bros. 2017 Merlot) from #MerlotMe as these wines have redefined my reality of Merlots. The “hooks” are obvious with these wines - complex characters, intensity, lushly rosy and full potential to pair some serious roasts - Chinese roast duck!

The Rutherford Hill of Napa Valley is a true Merlot pioneer and understands how this grape variety works. When they decided to hone into the winemaking of Merlots by going for low-volume production of Merlots, they produce the elegant and refined Bordeaux-style Merlots. The 2015 Merlot ($34), for example, is full-bodied, dark fruit, structured, and has the notes of milk chocolate and warm spices like anise and clove. These velvety texture and warm-spice flavors are the “hooks” that uniquely distinguish this Merlot from another. 

The 2018 Rosé of Merlot ($34) from Rutherford Hill, on the other hand, is a dry Provence-style Rosé and has the pronounced floral and stone fruit notes. It’s lovely but structured, making it a versatile partner for meat dishes.


The Mercer Bros. of Columbia Valley lie in the idyllic Horse Heaven Hills appellation, on the same land that they’ve farmed since 1886. Their agricultural practices incorporate balance, which drives toward nurturing a plant to produce its highest quality and most abundant fruit. The 2017 Merlot from Mercer is medium-bodied and lightly oaked and has the notes of raspberry jam, ripe plum, sweet cocoa and vanilla. Its finish is long, adding a hint of smokiness and acidity as an after taste. That’s what I consider as the “hooks” of the wine that entice consumers to enjoy, sip after sip and buy again!

Ducks are underused as daily meals in my opinion. This is partly because cooking a duck at home is typically done during the holidays or for special occasions. The gourmet aspect of eating ducks is also due to its availability in selected or fancy restaurants’ menus. Before I share with you the easy instructions to roast a duck in a Chinese-style at home, I also want to distinguish a regular roast duck vs. Peking duck. Peking (Beijing) ducks are really fancy dinners even for Chinese people and are not easily replicated in a home kitchen. The most important feature of a true Peking duck is the detachment of the duck’s skin from the meat. The skin of Peking duck can be skillfully done because air is pumped under the skin through the neck cavity to separate the skin from the fat. The duck is then plunged in boiling water for 1 to 5 minutes, and then hung to dry. This will tighten the skin and help the duck to achieve its maximum crispy texture. Watch this youtube video and find out how Peking duck restaurants finetone the technique. 
Since the skin is so crispy but moist, in the restaurants, the skin is often cut in cracker-size and is eaten with granular sugar sparkled and hoisin sauce drizzled on top – a true delicacy. 
Cracker-like Crispy Peking Duck Skin (Photo Credit:
For the home cook, you can roast a duck in Chinese-style with the simple steps below.
Chinese-style Roast Duck

  • 1 10-12 pound duck
  • 2 tbsp dark soya sauce
  • 2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
  • 1 tbsp of Hoisin sauce
  • 1 tbsp 5 spices 
  • ½ tsp ground white pepper 
  • ½ tsp salt 
  • 2 mandarin oranges 
  • scallion
  • Mix the dark soya sauce, oyster sauce, cooking wine, Hoisin sauce, 5 spices, white pepper and salt in a bowl. 
  • Defrost the duck in the fridge and marinate the duck with the mixture at least for 2 hours. Marinating it overnight is preferred. 
  • Turn on the conventional oven setting to 325 degree. 
  • Use tinfoil to cover the duck wings and drumsticks. Put the breast side of the duck on a roasting pan and the back side up. 
  • Roast the duck for 1 ½ to 2 hours or until the internal temperate of the duck leg rises to 165 degree. 
  • Turn the breast side of the duck up. Turn the oven to broil (high) and finish the roasting until the duck breasts are golden brown.
  • Rest the duck on the pan for at least half an hour.

The Chinese roast duck goes perfectly with the Rutherford Hill and Mercer Bros Merlots as the savory, deep-rich flavors from the soya sauce and oyster sauce, as well as the warm spices just go so well with these top-notched Merlots. The chocolate, dark cherry notes and smokiness of these wines replay even more when pairing with the duck. While the Rutherford Hill Rosé of Merlot may not seem to be a logical choice for a roast duck, this Rosé, in particular, has the texture that just clicks with the duck breast that’s juicy but lean.
The holiday season is fast approaching. As we are going to eat and drink a lot with our friends and family, let’s set aside our bias at all levels including the food and wine you consume, allow ourselves to try wines that have been a reinvented identity (e.g., Merlots), or eat a dish that’s unknown to you, or eat a dish at a different time of the day (e.g., Peking duck for lunch) – maybe we’ll gain some new perspectives in food and in life!

Disclaimer: wines are samples. Opinions are mines.

Let’s check out other blogger friends’ #MerlotMe posts:  

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