A Singular Perspective

A Blog by Nickel & Nickel Winery

Best Grilling Wines Merlot

We confess. We’ve been uncorking a lot of great single-vineyard Cabernets to pair with the steaks and burgers coming off our grill this season. When it comes to pairing wine and pork, however, some of the best grilling wines just might be pure, silky Napa Valley Merlot.

Which is why we rifled through our food and wine recipe archives and gave one of our classic Merlot pairings a summer makeover.

The pork chop is the centerpiece in this Grilled Pork Chop with Stone Fruit Salad menu, however, don’t discount the tangy, nutty arugula salad packed with goat cheese, plums and toasted almonds.  Although every flavor is intended to accent the fruit-forward flavors and supple, almost velvety texture of our Nickel & Nickel Bear Flat Vineyard Merlot, this recipe draws out the pure, single-vineyard flavors in all of our Napa Valley Merlots.

While the original recipe featured plump pluots and omitted the foamy butter sauce, our updated version takes advantage of farmers’ market fresh plums. You can also layer in grilled peaches for added texture or swap out the slivered almonds with toasted pine nuts to achieve a richer flavor.  When it comes to pairing wine and food, experimenting is half the fun!

Grilled Pork Chops with Stone Fruit and Goat Cheese Salad


Serves 2

Pork Chops

2 8-oz pork chops, bone-in

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

Optional herb butter

1 tablespoon butter

Garlic, rosemary or sage

Salad dressing

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon sugar

Salt and pepper, to taste


4 cups arugula, washed

1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds or pine nuts

1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled

4 ripe but firm plums or apricots


For the pork chop: Preheat half of a gas grill on high and leave the other half off. Brush the pork chops with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill each side of the pork on high heat for two minutes. Move the chops to the cool side of the grill and shut the lid for five minutes. Remove the chops when they have reached 145 degrees. Allow to rest three minutes before serving.

No grill? Skillet sauté your chops on medium-high heat, turning them every one to two minutes for about ten minutes, until the outside is golden brown and the internal temperature is between 138 and 145 degrees. For extra flavor, consider smashing garlic or your favorite herb (sage or rosemary are aromatic and delicious pork partners) into a tablespoon of unsalted butter. Add your homemade “herb butter” to the skillet drippings and melt over low heat. Spoon foaming butter sauce over chops to taste.

For the salad: To make the dressing, place all the ingredients in a small container with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously. The dressing does not need to be fully emulsified.

Place the arugula in a large bowl and evenly distribute the almonds or pine nuts, goat cheese and sliced plums or apricots. By putting the heavy ingredients on top of the salad it is easier to serve the salad without all the goodies falling to the bottom. Dress the salad just before serving.

Pour a glass of Nickel & Nickel Bear Flat Merlot and enjoy how the toasted nuts and juicy stone fruits accent the beautiful, fruit-forward flavors in wine, while the grilled pork chop enhances this supple Merlot’s rich, well-rounded finish.

Want more great grilling wines? Try pairing lamb burgers or grilled Merguez with this single-vineyard Syrah. Tender white fish over an open pit? There’s a single-vineyard Chardonnay (or two) for that.  And while we wouldn’t hesitate to uncork a number of our single-vineyard wines when searing off great sirloin or porterhouse, we’re usually tempted to reach for one of these dynamic Cabernets from some exceptional Napa Valley vineyards.