Saturday, February 5, 2011

{ Napa Valley Selene Merlot + Food & Wine Pairing Tips }

The Selene name bears its origin from Greek mythology. There are three goddesses associated with the moon in this mythology; Artemis, the maiden goddess of the waxing moon, Selene, the mother goddess of the full moon, and Hecate, the wise crone goddess of the waning moon. With beautiful moonrises over the Napa Valley hillsides, this must have been an inspiration for Mia Klein, the winemaker.

The Selene wines are focused on the Bordeaux Varietals that thrive in Napa Valley. The Merlot has been produced since 1991 and is extremely food friendly. This wine is well balanced and full of complexity at the same time. Mia Klein has an immense affinity for making great wine. She received her degree in Enology from U.C. Davis and worked her way through the ranks of the winemaking world. She gained experience from working at Challellet and Robert Pepi and did vast consulting for well known wineries such as Viader. Her next journey was to start Selene Wines which is her personal expression.

Mia chose both Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc as the first wine production since they are her personal favorites. She enjoys crafting unique and richly expressive wines. The fruit for her Merlot is sourced from a variety of ranches including Madrona Ranch in St. Helena, Toth Family in Coombsville and Frediani Family Vineyard in Calistoga.

The Selene Merlot is a blend of 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. This Merlot has an impact and concentration in the mouth along with a lengthy velvet finish. With a rich ruby color, there are expressive notes of plum, chocolate, currant and spicy undertones. The extraordinarily oak inspired cherry and sweet sandalwood flavors are very present along with subtle smoke characteristics. This medium bodied, supple and seductive wine should continue to evolve over the next seven years.

Food & Wine Pairing Tips:

Typically I would veer towards Cabernet Sauvignon as my red wine of choice, however, over the last several years I broken out of my comfort zone to gaining a great admiration for all of the red varietals and blends. Merlot is a varietal that is extremely food friendly. Since Merlot is a lush red wine with tones of plum, black cherry, chocolate, hints of pepper, spice and caramel is it a match for many dishes. Listed below are some wonderful pairings with Merlot to consider:

Cornish Game Hen
Chocolate Soufflé
Lamb with Mint Pan Sauce
Pork with Caramelized Onions
Chicken parmigiana
Steak Au Poivre
Steak Delmonico
Boeuf Bourguignon
Huevos Rancheros
Stuffed Mushrooms
Pizza with Garlic
Chicken Marsala
Veal Marsala
Gruyere Cheese
BBQ Duck
Grilled Chicken
Pasta Alfredo
Swiss cheese
Spicy ethnic foods

When you are first pairing food and wine, start with the wine and then select and create the food around it. It is much simpler to change or tweak a food recipe to make it more compatible with the wine, then to start blending your own wine. In the beginning, choose a wine you already know and enjoy. You will already have a sense of the flavors and have a starting point for your pairing.

Forget the "white wine with white meat" and "red wine with red meat" theory you always hear about. The food and wine should complement each other and not battle against each other. Think about simple wine with complex foods and complex wines with simple foods. Understand how the food is prepared with the different components and flavors. If the dish has unique ingredients that may throw off your pairing, take that into consideration. For example, chicken can be roasted, grilled, fried or poached and each cooking method will change the flavor of the chicken. Lastly, think about the additional flavors and sauces that can be added to the chicken dish. It is an art form to produce the best food pairing with wine.

Remember the best pairing is great food, great wine and great company. Friends and loved ones are the most critical ingredients. To assist you on your food and wine pairing journey, I have listed tips below:
  • When you bring wine as a hostess gift to a dinner party, do not worry about matching the wine to the food unless you have been requested to do so and have enough information about the complete meal.
  • With a multi-course dinner party that has as different wine chosen for each course, it is customary to serve lighter wines before the full-bodied ones. Dry wines should be served before sweet wines unless a sweet flavored dish is served early in the meal. Lower alcohol wine should be served prior to higher alcohol wines.
  • Balance the flavor intensity of each wine. Pair light-bodied wines with lighter food and fuller-bodied wines with heartier, more flavorful, richer and fattier dishes. Consider how the food is prepared. Delicately flavored foods, poached or steamed, pair best with delicate wines. It's easier to pair wines with more flavorfully prepared food, braised, grilled, roasted or sautéed. Pair the wine with the sauce, seasoning or dominant flavor of the dish.
  • Match your flavors. For example, an earthy Pinot Noir matches beautifully with mushroom dishes and the grassy flavor of Sauvignon Blanc pairs perfectly with goat cheese.
  • Often when you think about food and wine pairings, cheese and wine come to mind. Red wines go well with mild to sharp cheeses. Pungent and strong flavored cheeses go better with a sweeter wine, such as Riesling. Soft cheeses like brie or camembert are wonderful with any type of red.
  • Taylor the food flavor to enhance the pairing with the wine. Sweetness in a dish will increase the bitterness in wine, making it appear drier, stronger and less fruity. Increased amounts of acidity in food will decrease the sourness in wine and make it taste richer and smoother.
  • Look out for bitter flavors in food since they will increase the tannic elements in wine. Sourness and salt in food suppress bitter taste in wine. Salt in food can decrease the bitterness and astringency of wine and may make sweet wines tastes sweeter.
  • Think about pairing opposites. Hot or spicy foods often work extremely well with sweeter wines such as a Riesling. Opposite flavors can create new flavor sensations and cleanse the palate.
  • Pair geography, region and location. Regional food and wines often have a natural affinity for each other.


  1. I must look out for Selene here...from your description, it sounds very promising. And thank you so much for the tips on wine/food pairing.

  2. I would like Merlot with BBQ duck on soft polenta, thank you very much. I enjoyed this read and will look for the Selene;-)

  3. This was such a well-written blogpost! I know very little about pairing wine, and I want to print this off and hang it on my fridge! I appreciate you introducing me to a lovely winemaker too! Thank you for sharing, sweet friend. May your Sunday be one of peace and love.

  4. Thank you so much for the informative post! I appreciate the tips that you've included... and the foods that we can enjoy with a glass of Merlot!

  5. Thanks so much for the post! It's really nice that you talked about pairing, which is a challenge for everyone. Great Tips!

  6. Very informative Lisa, I wish I knew a little more on the subject. I love learning about it though and the tasting, not so bad either. I need to branch out a little and try some new varities. Great advice. Hope you are having a great week. Winter is almost over, I hope!

  7. I have the most beautiful sculpted candle holder of Selene :) I am most definitely a cab girl, but I wanter occasionally... Wonderfully informative post.


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