Our Wine of the Week, Markham Vineyards 2014 Napa Valley Merlot ($25), is pleasingly juicy on first sip, with flavors of ripe cherries and black raspberries to delight your palate. Although the wine is deeply colored, the cherries are more evocative of the Queen Anne variety than the darker Bing cherry. It is a very pretty quality, light and delicate on the tongue.
As you await your second sip, you’ll notice a bit of oaky vanilla, a flourish of chocolate and a suggestion of white peppercorns, qualities that linger pleasantly and remarkably gracefully. The tannins are a bit chewy but bright acidity mitigates any drying effect such tannins could have.
At the table, the wine is lovely with Italian-style pastas, American-style pizza, and creamy polenta topped with a traditional ragout. Barbecued ribs with blueberry barbecue sauce makes a great match, too. If you want to have a little fun, rub quail with finely ground coffee, grill them quickly, and serve them over sautéed chard and topped with vanilla-infused cream sauce.
To enjoy this wine with a classic American burger, use homemade ketchup –– plum ketchup is perfect as the primary condiment –– and top the burger with caramelized onions.
Today’s match is an easy summer dish, especially on a hot night when you want to cook outside.
Grilled Sausages with Roasted Sweet Peppers
3 to 4 large sweet red and/or yellow peppers
2 to 3 garlic cloves, cut into thin slices
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, preferably a merlot or cabernet sauvignon vinegar
Black pepper in a mill
3 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
4 full flavored sausages (see Note below)
Sear the peppers over an open flame or outdoor grill until they skins are blackened. Set in a bowl, cover with a tea towel, and set cool. Use your fingers to pull off the skins and use a paring knife to cut out the stem and seed core. Cut into medium julienne and put into a wide shallow bowl.
Add the garlic, vinegar, several turns of black pepper, and the parsley, toss gently, cover, and set aside.
Grill the sausages on a stove top grill or outdoor fire until they are fully cooked but not dry. Remove from the heat, let rest a few minutes and cut each sausage, diagonally, into 3 minutes. Set the sausages on top of the sweet peppers and enjoy right away.
Note: Do not use chicken or turkey sausages in this dish. Venison, wild boar, and duck sausages will make the most delicious matches but any full-flavored well-made sausage, provided it has no fennel seed and no spicy heat, will work well.
On a cool night, enjoy the sweet peppers and sausages over creamy polenta.
Sonoma magazine remembers 10 beloved Wine Country restaurants, landmarks and wineries destroyed by the fires here