You must be imaginative, strong-hearted. You must try things that may not work, and you must not let anyone define your limits because of where you come from. Your only limit is your soul. What I say is true – anyone can cook… but only the fearless can be great. ~ Chef Gusteau

A Disney-Pixar Education

I am a child at heart. I can sit and watch cartoons and laugh my butt off! And of all the cartoons, Disney-Pixar are among my favorite. They are entertaining and actually pretty darn educational. In Toy Story, we learn about friendship, teamwork and loyalty. Inside Out shows us that we all have ups and downs and we need to learn how to deal with them. Monsters teach us to not judge a book by its cover, while Up shows us that life can go on after we experience a loss. But, one of my all time favorites, Ratatouille, shows us that we all have talents and despite adversity, perseverance will help us achieve our goals; in other words, Pursue Your Passion! 


Duckhorn Wine Company has been leading the California based #MerlotMe movement for about five years and branded October as Merlot Month. You can find #MerlotMe events in wine stores, restaurants and private parties all over the world. According to #MerlotMe, last year, 6.5 million wine consumers in over forty countries and across more than forty U.S. states participated in Merlot tastings. 

Merlot is found in many major regions. In fact according to WineFolly’s research, there are 600,000 acres grown worldwide, with the largest amount grown in the Bordeaux and Languedoc-Roussillon region of France with 280,000 acres. Italy is next in line with less than half of the acreage (93,000) followed by the United States with 55,000 acres. Merlot is also found in Australia, Chile and Argentina. 

Thanks to its middle of the road tannin and acidity levels, Merlot pairs well with a variety of foods. Albeit, many of the foods it is known to go nicely with are foods that I don’t like.  Grilled Flat Iron Steak with Blue Cheese Butter –  no on both steak and blue cheese. Lamb burgers – uh, hell no! Veal Chop – don’t even get me started. So, as usual, I had to be a little creative with my meal.

As I was searching for ideas for a recipe, tomato sauce based meals kept popping up, so I started to think about what I could make. I didn’t think lasagna would go because of the ricotta and I wanted to create something a bit more than just pasta and tomato sauce.  One of the recipes talked about using tomato paste, and although I can’t really explain why it popped in my head, it did. Ratatouille! (actually the movie was what I was thinking about, and then I thought that the dish just may work!

Food Can Transcend You

In the movie, Remy, a very talented rat with an exceptional sense of taste and smell, craves more than what his life in his colony can provide. When he accidentally looses his family during an elaborate escape, he realizes he has been living under Paris all this time and he can’t help himself but follow in the footsteps of his idol chef Gusteau. 

He teams up with a Linguini, a lost soul hired as a garbage boy, to create marvelous dishes in the restaurant. Remy can understand Linguini, but can’t talk to him and he must remain a secret, since a rat as a chef would not go over well. Linguini begins to calll Remy “Little Chef” and they devise a scheme to make it look like Linguini is doing the cooking. In the end, Remy must make a meal for the very prestigious and difficult to impress food critic, Anton Ego. The dish he chose was Ratatouille! 

After being taken back to his childhood through a single taste of Remy’s dish, he writes the most positive and heartwarming review for the newspaper declaring that the chef is “nothing less than the finest chef in France.”  

On the Plate

Ratatouille is not a difficult dish to make but it does take some time to slice all the vegetables and to line them up in the circular fashion. It has a history known as a “peasant dish,” originating in Nice, France, created by Provencal peasants. It was a dish that the poor farmers were able to afford to make during the summer months. Today, it is just a great dish to make if you know a vegetarian. 

Although there isn’t a set belief of where the name came from (I will bet it really has nothing to do with rats) it is thought to have been named  from the French verb “touiller” meaning “to stir” along with “rata” meaning “chunky stew.”  However, somewhere in history, the dish became less of a stew and more visually appealing spiral colored dish, often served over rice or couscous.   

One of the main ingredients of ratatouille is eggplant. I am not a fan of eggplant. In fact, it a food I try to stay very far away from. But that is the beautiful thing about ratatouille, you can kind of make it out of anything you like. I chose to eliminate the eggplant and add provolone cheese since its perfect semi-hard texture is a perfect match for Merlot and it melts easily. 


Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 45 minutes
6 oz can of tomato paste
1 small onion, chopped
2 tsp minced garlic
3 Tbs olive oil (separated)
3/4 cup water
1/8 pound sliced provolone
1 small zucchini, sliced thin
1 yellow squash, sliced thin
2 plum tomatoes, sliced thin
1 small red bell pepper, sliced
1 small yellow pepper, sliced
1 small green pepper, sliced
1 tsp thyme
salt and pepper to taste

1 box 5 minute couscous (I used roasted garlic and olive oil)

  1. Preheat oven to 375o F. 
  2. Spread tomato paste onto the bottom of a 13 inch pie dish. Sprinkle with the chopped onion, garlic, 1 Tbs olive oil and salt and pepper. Pour water and stir until well mixed. 
  3. Arrange the vegetables by alternating tomato, zucchini, yellow squash, red pepper, orange pepper, green pepper and provolone. Start at the edge of the dish and work concentrically towards the center. Be sure to overlap the slices, but leave enough to see the colors. 
  4. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil, thyme and salt and pepper to taste. 
  5. Cut a piece of parchment paper to cover the vegetables and bake for 45 minutes or until the vegetables are roasted and tender.
  6. Cook couscous according to directions. Serve Ratatouille over couscous. 

Two Wines One Dish

I received two samples for our chat. They were polar opposites of each other, which is something I love about wine. First up the 2014 Long Meadow Ranch from Napa Valley is 75% Merlot, 24% Petit Verdot, .5% Cabernet Sauvignon and .5% Sangiovese. When I first tasted this wine, I thought it was very earthy and rather intense for a Merlot. After seeing the blend, I understood why it had the expression it did. The Petit Verdot was showing itself. 

Next was the 2016 Chelsea Goldschmidt Guidestone Rise Merlot from Alexander Valley. This wine was more delicate and was more fruit forward. This wine is 100% Merlot. The red fruit and chocolate flavors were more aligned to my palate even though they claim it is a Merlot for a Cabernet Sauvignon drinker. 

Little ChefLong Meadow Ranch Winery

At one time Long Meadow Ranch, located in the foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains, flourished by growing not only grapes, but apples and olives as well as producing goat milk and selling hay. Then Prohibition occurred, and the property fell into silence and was succumbed by overgrowth.

In 1989, the Hall family purchased the land and provided the TLC necessary to bring it back to life. They cut back the olive trees and replanted the vines and apple trees. The family, led by patriarch Ted hall, relied on his experience in agriculture, wine and specialty food to create a family run business that encompasses wine, olives and olive oil, grass-fed beef and lamb, vegetables and fruits all maintained using organic and sustainable farming methods.

The property in Northern California includes over 2000 acres in Napa, Marin, Mendocino and Humbolt counties. In addition to the winery, they have Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch, which is a  farm-to-table restaurant, a café and a general store. If you are interested in a more in-depth and personalized wine experience, for $75 every day at 10am you can “explore exquisite mountain vineyards and wine caves at the Mayacamas Estate. This unique experience includes transportation to the Estate, house-cured charcuterie, cheese, and olives and a tasting of our Prato Lungo Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil.” 

Chelsea Goldschmidt

Alexander Valley, located just north of Healdsburg, CA, is the largest and most planted wine region in Sonoma. The valley is separated by high way 101 and the Russian River. Named after Cyrus Alexander, the AVA was granted status in 1984.

Yolyn and Nick Goldschmidt are originally from New Zealand. After spending numerous years producing wine in New Zealand, Australia and South America, they decided to come to California and created two brands; Goldschmidt Vineyard and the international Forefathers labels. Their mission “create wines that highlight the distinct characters, benefits and attributes derived from these site specific harvests.” 

The Chelsea Goldschmidt Guidestone Rise Merlot was named after Nick’s oldest daughter. The vineyard is located along Route 128 just east of Geyserville. The wines are produced as a family affair as Nick and Yolyn are often found in the vineyards along with their five children.  In addition to the Chelsea label, their daughters Hilary and Katherine also have their own label.

Join Us

Join us as we celebrate #MerlotMe month today, October 13, 2018 at 11am EST. Just follow the hashtag #WinePW and share your love for Merlot, or find out what all the hype is about! Then be sure to check out my friends blogs listed below, to find more Merlot and food pairings that you will be sure to enjoy all month-long! 

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  1. A wonderful post Lori. I too paired Merlot with a tomato sauce based dish! Worked out great for me. Haven’t had Ratatouille over couscous before. Will have to give it a try!

    1. It is the first time I ever had (or made) it but will definitely be making it again.. Just wish it didn’t take that much time to slice up alll the veggies.

  2. What a great idea to substitute provolone for the eggplant. That sounds like a great addition to the dish. And this sounds like a wonderful pairing.

  3. Reading about your ratatouille reminding me a couple points. #1 I need to buy that great movie for my son, Remy. #2 it’s so long since I prepared Ratatouille I’m overdue. The recipe looks great and I cant wait to try making it.

    1. Thank you Jane. The Chelsea was more to my palate. Both were good pairings, but I lean towards the Chelsea

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