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A Paddling of Duck(horn)s #MerlotMe #WinePW #Sponsored

 This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf Duckhorn Vineyards, one of the #MerlotMe event sponsors.
Complimentary wine was provided for this post and this page may contain affiliate links.
However, all opinions expressed here are my own.

This is my third year participating in #MerlotMe thanks to my involvement with the Wine Pairing Weekend bloggers. Wine Pairing Weekend - #winePW - happens on the second Saturday of the month. And this month - October 2017 - foodwineclick is hosting. Jeff invited us to jump on the #MerlotMe bandwagon with him again this year. Click to read his invitation.

Before my introduction to the #MerlotMe event in 2015, I really didn't take this varietal seriously. It seemed too gentle, too fruity, too simple. But, after I explored it a little bit, pairing Merlot with Crisped Mushrooms On Warmed Le Welsche and with Wine, Butter, & Herb-Roasted Mushrooms, I was happy to be proven wrong. Last year, for year two, I even did an entire dinner paired with Merlot (click here) with Merlot-friendly Cheeses, Merlot with Braised Lamb, and Merlot-Poached Pears.

#WinePW Collides with #MerlotME

I want to share a bit about this varietal before I get into the food and wine pairings for this year. Merlot is a dark almost blue-black colored grape. It is used both as a blending grape - fairly common as an element in Meritage blends - and as a single varietal. It's thought that the name 'Merlot' might come from the French word for blackbird, merle.

All of the #MerlotMe participating wineries can be seen here. My first year (2015), I received complimentary bottles from Duckhorn VineyardsTwomey, and L'Ecole No. 41. Last year (2016) I received bottles from Duckhorn Vineyards and Pope Valley Winery. And this year (2017), I received bottles from Duckhorn Vineyards (woohoo for year three!), Goldschmidt Vineyards, and J. Lohr

Click to read about my pairing of Chevre Crostini with Chelsea Goldschmidt and, soon, I'll be posting my pairing of Fig-Glazed Duck Legs with J. Lohr's Los Osos Merlot.

A Paddling of Duckhorns
With a the generous shipment of their wines, and the fact that they have provided me with samples for three years, I decided to focus on Duckhorn for this post.

Do you know what a group of ducks is called? I always thought it was a 'flock'. Turns out that there are multiple terms, including words that differentiate between a group of ducks on the water and a group of ducks in the air. Really?!? I love etymology and was happy to add some words to my vocabulary. But one of the words for a group of ducks is a 'paddling.' 

...And a Paddling of Duck Meatball Recipes
I decided to pair each of the Duckhorn wines I received with a different duck meatball.

Duck Kofta with Duckhorn's
Three Palms Vineyard Merlot 2014
A Middle Eastern-Inspired Nibble served with Israeli Couscous


  • 8 ounces ground duck
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and pressed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T dates, pitted and diced
  • 2 T fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 T flour
  • 1/2 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 t ground allspice
  • 1/4 t ground cardamom
  • 1/4 t ground ginger
  • 1/4 t ground paprika
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1/3 C ground almonds
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 T olive oil
  • Also needed: cooked Israeli couscous, small skewers for serving, and chutney (I used my Heirloom Tomato Chutney)

Place all of the ingredients - up to the ground almonds - in a medium mixing bowl. Mix well with your hands and shape the mixture into 9 or 10 oblong meatballs. Melt the butter in olive oil until it's nice and foamy. Roll the kofta in ground almonds and place in the pan. Cook until nicely browned and cooked through, approximately 12 to 14 minutes.

Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. When ready to serve, pierce with skewers and place on a bed of Israeli couscous. Serve with chutney.

Duckhorn Vineyard's Napa Valley Three Palms Vineyard Merlot 2014
$98 on the winery website
86% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot
This wine was powerful and elegant. It opened up with notes of red fruit, as I expected, but had a robust structure with lingering hints of spices on the finish. The pepper and clove paired nicely with the big flavors of the Middle Eastern-inspired kofta.

Duck Polpettine with 
Duckhorn's Napa Valley Merlot 2014
An Italian-Inspired Bite served with Wilted Spinach


  • 8 ounces ground duck
  • 1 T minced shallots
  • 2 t chopped fresh basil
  • 1 t chopped fresh oregano
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 C panko breadcrumbs


  • 1 C fresh tomato sauce
  • 1 T minced shallots
  • 1 t chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 t dried oregano
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • olive oil
  • Also needed: wilted spinach for serving

Mix all of the meatball ingredients together in a bowl. Form walnut-sized meatballs. Set aside.

In a large, flat-bottom pan, heat a splash of olive oil and cook the shallots until they begin to turn transparent. Add the tomato sauce and herbs.

Gently drop the meatballs into the sauce and simmer until cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add a splash of olive oil to make it all glossy. Serve on a bed of wilted spinach.

Duckhorn's Napa Valley Merlot
$54 on the winery website
88% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc
Where the Three Palms is large and bold, the Napa Valley Merlot has a softer appeal. While there are still intense fruit aromas, on the tongue there is a beautiful balance of vibrant acidity and velvety smooth tannins. The finish is long with a softness of roasted coffee. This was a lovely pairing with the Italian-themed meatballs.

Duck Tsukune with 
Duckhorn's Decoy Merlot 2015
An Asian-Inspired Appetizer served with Brown Rice

  • 1 C soy sauce
  • 1 C mirin
  • 1/4 C organic dark brown sugar
  • 8 ounces ground duck
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 bunch organic scallions, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 1 T freshly grated ginger
  • oil for frying
  • Also needed: cooked rice, black sesame seeds for garnish

In a medium saucepan, bring the soy sauce, mirin, and sugar to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and cook until the liquid has reduced to a thick sauce, approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the glaze cool.

In a medium mixing bowl, mix the ground duck with the salt, pepper, scallions, and ginger until well-combined. Form the meat into 10 small meatballs. Heat the oil in skillet and cook the meatballs until they are firm to the touch and nicely browned, approximately 10 minutes. Pour glaze over the top of the meatballs and heat until the sauce is bubbling. Be careful so they don't burn. Turn to coat completely. Serve on a bed of rice with a sprinkling of black sesame seeds as a garnish.

Decoy Merlot 
$25 on the winery website
92% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petite Sirah
Made in neighboring Sonoma Valley, this Merlot by Duckhorn's Decoy imprint offers lush fruity layers of black cherry and cassis. This is a velvety sip where the acidity adds length to the vibrant berry notes.

Thank you to Jeff, of foodwineclick, for arranging the #MerlotMe tie in with #WinePW. And thank you, especially, to Duckhorn Vineyards. These were three lovely and unique expressions of the varietal. And they paired with my dishes beautifully. I have received no additional compensation for this post. All statements are 100% mine and 100% accurate.

You may find Duckhorn Vineyards... 
on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter

*Disclosure: I received compensation for recipe development and generating social media traction. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the organizer and sponsors of this event.


  1. What a wonderful collection of meatball recipes! They all sound like fantastic pairings! I love that you went all out on the "duck" theme!

    1. Thanks, Sarah. I had so much fun with the duck meatball variations!

  2. I can't wait to try the kofta meatballs...they sound like they would be a big hit in this household. Don't you just LOVE Duckhorn wines? I was so happy when that box arrived!!

  3. Wow! Love the meatball recipes-I can't wait to try them. Thanks!!

    1. Thanks, Cindy. I hope you'll let me know how it goes.

  4. Great pairing! I have never seen ground duck. I bet those meatballs rock!

    1. I found that ground duck at our local Whole Foods.

  5. looks like you had fun with this one! My Duckhorn shipment came late to use for #winePW but we had that single vineyard Merlot this weekend. I too noted the spice element and tried to match it with the sauce I made for ribeye.

    1. Love how the wines matched the spice levels. This was a fun event, wasn't it?

  6. So impressive, Camilla! I have to admit something - I've never prepared duck and have eaten very little of it in my lifetime. However, my maternal grandfather was apparently a very skilled duck hunter and I've heard such stories about him setting in on the river to stalk them. This was many years ago, and I'm not even sure if the practice still exists. This made me remember him and I thank you for that moment. Great post!

    1. Wow! Duck is one of our favorite meats. I don't know any duck hunters though. Wild boar hunters, yes. Deer, no. ;)

  7. I LOVE what you did here! So fun to pair these beautiful wines with three completely different takes on meatballs. I particularly think I'm going to have to try the Kofta!

    1. Thanks, Nicole. Would love to hear how the kofta goes if you try it.


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