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Enjoying Wine and Beer in the Augusta GA area

Long Meadow Ranch Merlot Great For Summer Grilling

Long Meadow Ranch Merlot 2015, Napa Valley

Cost: $33-36

While summer seems most suited for drinking white wines, there is no need to ignore your favorite reds during the summer heat.

For instance, it just doesn’t seem right to drink a white wine with a hamburger or a steak. If that suits your taste, that’s fine, but most people would rather have a red wine with a burger.

We interrupted the string of white wines we have been drinking this summer to have a smooth Merlot when I made hamburgers on the grill. It was a great choice.

Long Meadow Ranch Merlot has everything you could look for in a Merlot: fresh fruit flavors and mellow tannins with some depth and complexity.

It is a beautiful dark red color in the glass, with aromas of cherry and raspberry. The tannins are balanced with crisp acidity to make a well rounded wine. There are some oak notes on the palate which add a nice hint of vanilla.

The Napa Valley blend is 95 percent Merlot, 2.4 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 1.8 percent Petite Sirah and 0.8 percent Petit Verdot. The grapes come from the winery’s Mayacamas Mountain Estate and the Rutherford Estate, a mineral-rich benchland that once was a riverbed.

The Mountain Estate has 16 acres of vineyards in the Mayacamas Mountains planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese and Cabernet Franc. The Rutherford vineyard has 74 acres planted to Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The estate is also home to fruits and vegetables, beehives and a growing flock of egg-laying chickens.

The wine is aged in 30 percent new French oak.

We drank the 2013 Rutherford Estate and 2015 Napa Valley vintages, while the current Napa release is 2016. The current release should have about the same flavor profile. The extra time in the bottle made the wine even smoother and more mellow, especially the 2013 vintage, which has a price tag of about $80.

The wine should be chilled slightly to 55 or 60 degrees when you open the bottle. It will warm up in the glass as you drink it. The slight chill will make the wine even better during the warm summer months.

Long Meadow Ranch also has a delicious Pinot Noir that can be served slightly chilled. It has aromas of dried earth and roses with intense red fruit on the palate. It has a silky texture with a long, complex finish. It sells for about $40.

The winery has jumped on the virtual tasting bandwagon, which is great for us wine drinkers who live far from California. You can buy a three-pack of wine and set up a time for a Zoom virtual tasting. One three-pack is called “Red, White and Rosé,” and the other is three red varietals, Merlot, Cab and Pinot. You can get friends or family to get their own tasting pack and join you on the virtual tasting.

Winery: Long Meadow Ranch is a family-owned agricultural enterprise devoted to creating world class wines while employing an integrated, organic farming system using simple, sustainable methods. All their crops are organically produced and are certified by the California Certified Organic Farmers.

The Long Meadow Ranch property has a long history, stretching back to the late 1800s when it was full of vineyards, apple orchards, olive groves, hay and a goat milk dairy. The property was dormant during Prohibition and was losing ground to the surrounding forest until Ted and Laddie Hall bought it in 1989.

Working with son Chris they revitalized the property in the Mayacamas Mountains and made a home there. They replanted the vineyards and apple orchards and cut back the abandoned olive trees. The estate now has 650 acres, and the family farms more than 2,000 acres of grapes, olives, fruit, vegetables and pasture in three counties.

The ranch began after the Civil war when President Ulysses S. Grant signed a land patent giving 640 acres to veteran E.J. Church. The Halls brought the ranch back to its glory days with an integrated, organic farming system. Each piece works together in complementary fashion: vineyards and wine making, olive orchards and olive oil making, cattle and horse breeding, the egg-laying poultry flock and the organic vegetable gardens.

All crops are grown without the use of herbicides, pesticides, or chemical fertilizers.

Ted and Laddie were introduced by family in Texas, but their romance blossomed on the East Coast. Ted was attending Princeton University and Laddie the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

They married in 1971 and after a short time in the military they moved to Northern California so Ted could attend business school at Stanford University. The California move ignited a love of winemaking in Ted and he soon dreamed of owning his own vineyard.

He worked in the industry and became chairman of the board of The Robert Mondavi Corporation before it was bought by Constellation Brands.

Once a professional trombonist, Hall has stayed with his music even while creating a career in wine. In 1977 he co-founded and led a 17-piece big band in San Francisco, known as the Midnight Rounds. He also co-founded a jazz record label. He still performs with local groups, including the LMR All Start Big Band.

Long Meadow Ranch grew in 2015, when the Hall family bought 145 acres planted with 69 acres of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot gris. Cooled by breezes from the nearby Pacific Ocean the estate is perfect for growing pinot and chardonnay.

The couple also produces cabernet sauvignon, merlot and sauvignon blanc from estate vineyards in Mayacamas and Rutherford.

The ranch operates a sustainable food, wine, and agricultural education destination located in St. Helena, which is anchored by the distinctive farm-to-table restaurant, Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch. Besides tasting wine there you can get a tasting of bourbon, rye and whiskey.

They also have opened a tasting room in Anderson Valley at The Madrones, a boutique resort on Highway 128 in Philo. Several other wineries operate tasting rooms there, too.

Goes with: We tested this wine’s compatibility with grilled foods, and it came out a winner.

We had homemade grilled hamburgers with grilled pineapple slices. What a great meal. When I make the hamburger patties I include chopped onion, an egg and Morton Nature’s Seasons.

For me, the two biggest tricks to grilling burgers is to get the thickness of the patties as uniform as possible, and oiling the grill before putting on the burgers. The first trick lets you cook the burgers uniformly without raw spots or burnt spots. The oiling prevents the burgers from sticking to the grill when you want to flip them over.

This wine also would pair well with beef, baby back ribs, pulled pork sandwiches and roast duck.

The pineapple made a tasty healthy side dish that went well with the burgers, and would be great with just about any meal. Here’s the recipe:

Grilled pineapple

3 tablespoons light brown sugar

2 tablespoons water

1 pineapple

2 teaspoons coconut-flavored rum

red pepper flakes

small handful of fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

Stir the sugar and water together in a saucepan over low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved to form a syrup. Let the syrup cool. Stir rum into the syrup when it has cooled.

Take a whole pineapple and cut it into thick slices. Grill the pineapple for a few minutes on each side until fully heated and grill marks appear. Cut each slice in half and place on a plate.

Drizzle the syrup over the pineapple slices and sprinkle on red pepper flakes and cilantro.

If you have questions about wine email them to dennis@bottlereport.com.

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