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Celebrating #MerlotME with Mushrooms, Truffles, and a Wine from a Cal Alumna #WinePW


This month - the 8th annual, in fact - the Wine Pairing Weekend group is celebrating a month of Merlot. You can read Jeff of Food Wine Click!'s invitation: here. That post also includes a recap of all our years from 2015 to 2021. So, if you are needing any Merlot pairing inspiration this month, we have you covered.

And I can't wait to see what this year brings. Jeff has also asked us to add a focus on sustainability as that has been a recurring theme in our wine groups recently.

If you are reading this early enough, feel free to join our live chat on Twitter on Saturday, October 8th at 8am Pacific. Follow the hashtag #WinePW along with #MerlotME. And be sure to add those to anything you tweet so we can see it. 

Here's the 2022 line-up of the #WinePW posts for #MerlotME...

Kathryn Hall, an Impressive Cal Alumna

This year my younger son started at Cal and my little Cal gal heart is full of mamma bear pride and school spirit. I mean, I have had a lifetime membership to the alumni association for over two decades; I still read The Daily Californian online and California from cover to cover when it shows up in my mailbox. And now that D is there, I have banished Stanford red from my wardrobe for the next four years! Only kidding about that one. Though I definitely don't wear red anywhere near Berkeley.

In the most recent edition of California there was an advertisement for The Graduate Wine Collective, a wine club featuring wines crafted by UC Berkeley alumni. In case you are interested in that list, read it here. I didn't join the club, well, not yet anyway. But I did research several of the wineries and tracked down several bottles to share and pair over the next months. I also discovered that I have already tried several of them without knowing of their Cal connection. More on that soon. But when I sourced a bottle of the 2016 Hall Merlot, I knew that that was my pick for this event.

Kathryn Hall graduated from Cal with a degree (BA) in Economics in 1968. She also received a joint Berkeley-Columbia Executive Masters in Business Administration (BCEMBA) from Cal and Columbia in 2007. Somewhere in there she received her Doctor of Jurisprudence (JD) from UC San Francisco's Hastings College of Law. She was the United States Ambassador to Austria from 1997 to 2001 and currently serves on the Napa Legal Aid Board of Directors. She is fluent in French and German; she is a wife and a mother of four. Hall is one impressive gal! Along with all of that and the reason I am shining the spotlight on her today: She is the owner and proprietor of HALL Wines along with her husband, Craig.

HALL's Sustainability

While The Young Republicans was the largest student-run club on campus during my era, most people I know who went through Berkeley - and I am definitely in that camp - end up as tree-hugging hippies.

Diving deep into whatever I could find about Kathryn Hall and HALL Wines, I wasn't surprised by their stated core values and how they translate those values into action and practice. From their people to their buildings, they are impressively responsible.

All HALL Estate vineyards are part of the Napa County Certified Winery program. Five of the vineyards have been certified organic by the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) and all eleven vineyards are Certified Sustainable by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance. These certifications require the implementation of rigorous standards from irrigation standards, to eco-friendly farming, and natural plant treatments.

HALL's St. Helena tasting room was awarded LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Certification, established by the U.S. Green Building Council. That's the second LEED® Gold award for the property which was previously recognized as the first winery in California to earn LEED® Gold for its fully-sustainable production facility in 2009. 

Additionally, all of their employees are given 40 hours per year to volunteer for a charitable organization of their choosing. So, they really care about the longevity of their people as well as the planet.

I poured the HALL 2016 Merlot. It was a rich, vibrant ruby hue with a luxurious nose of cinnamon, cloves, ripe black cherries and a whiff of violets. On the palate the wine was voluptuous and silky with ample red fruits, rich cocoa, and moderate tannins. The wine's finish was long with notes of wet granite. This was a wine that we enjoyed long after we had finished our dinner...just delightful conversation over a beautiful wine.

Merlot + Mushrooms

From all my years participating in this, I knew that mushrooms and Merlot are a match made in foodie heaven. So, I created several different mushroom pairings for our #MerlotME wines. First up: Three Mushroom Pâté + J. Lohr 2020 Los Osos Merlot and Black Trumpet Flatbread + 2018 Cuda Ridge Merlot. And, given that it's only the second weekend in the month, there will be plenty of others!

Truffled Risotto-Stuffed Portabello

But to pour with the HALL Merlot, I wanted to go all out with mushrooms and truffles. Fungus galore! I roasted portabello mushrooms, filled them with mushroom risotto, topped them with sautéed mushrooms and truffle slices, and drizzled everything lightly with truffle oil.

Ingredients serves 2

Roasted Portabellos
  • 2 portabello mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil + 1/2 teaspoon truffle oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • salt and pepper
  • mushroom risotto (similar to this Risotto all'Amarone - just use all stock instead of stock and wine)
  • 4 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil + 1/2 teaspoon truffle oil
  • truffle slices
  • truffle salt
  • herbs for garnishing


Roasted Portabellos
Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the stems from the mushrooms and save for the topping.

Brush insides and outsides of mushrooms with oil then season with salt and pepper. Top each mushroom 2 minced cloves of garlic. Arrange mushrooms, gill side up, on a baking sheet, and roast until tender and beginning to brown, approximately 15 minutes.

Flip mushrooms and roast until mushrooms are brown and slightly dry, approximately 5 minutes more.

Heat olive oil and truffle oil in a skillet. Stir in sliced mushrooms and truffle slices. Cook until just softened.

Spoon warm risotto into the roasted portabellos mushrooms. Top with sautéed mushrooms. Dot with more truffle slices. Sprinkle with herbs and a bit of truffle salt. Serve immediately.

Well, that is a wrap on my #WinePW post for #MerlotMe month though I have many more pairings to share before the month is out. Stay tuned! And next month, the group will be back with pairings of Zinfandel. Martin of ENOFYLZ Wine Blog will be leading the discussion.


  1. A Gorgeous line up of mushroom pairings. How nice that you were able to spotlight an alum from your alma mater.

    1. Yes! I was very excited to feature her wines, especially when Jeff mentioned the sustainability side of this event. It was perfect!

  2. Gotta love combining some school spirit with some good Merlot! And I love the mushroom pairing for Merlot.

    1. Yes! Since D started at Cal my school spirit has definitely boomed. And finding that wine was fantastic.

  3. Two of my favorite things: mushrooms and risotto. yum!

  4. Wow! That's some impressive Cal gal, but you are, too. Take a look at that food! Also want to give a shout-out for tree-hugging hippies. Bring it!

    1. Oops! Camilla, that comment was mine.

  5. First, here's to Tree Huggers! Next, that pairing sounds incredible! Michael is not a big fan of mushrooms, so...I will have to find a night he is working and spoil myself making this! Best part is I will have leftovers, just for me!
    I also love that you got to show a little Cal pride with this post!


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