SOURCE: The Meritage Association

June 12, 2006 09:00 ET

White Meritage: A Truly American Wine to Toast the Fourth of July

YOUNTVILLE, CA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- June 12, 2006 -- Looking for the perfect white wine to put on ice for your Fourth of July gathering? The next time you stroll down the wine aisle, snag a White Meritage -- a truly American wine made in the tradition of the best wines of France and a delightful alternative to Chardonnay.

White Meritage wines are sleek and elegant blends of two white grape varieties that hail from Bordeaux -- Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. The lean, crisp and tart characteristics of the Sauvignon Blanc are tempered by the weightier, silky and almost honey-like nuances of the Sémillon grape.

"White Meritage wines have a tremendous acidic background that gives them real character and makes them perfect for pairing with food," said Julie Weinstock, president of Cosentino Signature Wineries and chairman of The Meritage Association, which trademarks the Meritage name on wines. "They satisfy the palate of the traditional Chardonnay drinker, but generally are less expensive than Chardonnay and tend to age better."

Plus, they are truly American wines. Eighteen years ago, winemaker Mitch Cosentino and two other Napa vintners got together and formed an association to promote American-made wines blended in the tradition of Bordeaux. They sponsored an international contest to come up with a name for the category. The winner was Meritage -- a combination of "merit" (recognizing the quality of the grapes) and "heritage" (referring to the ages old French tradition of blending wines). The word rhymes with heritage.

"Meritage is a much more definitive description than simply saying red table wine or white table wine on the label," said Weinstock.

Today, more than 150 wineries in the United States, Canada, Australia, Israel and Mexico make Meritage wines. Red Meritage wines are more common than their White Meritage counterparts, but Weinstock says it's not too hard to find White Meritage blends from top U.S. producers like Cosentino, Guenoc, Lyeth, Murrieta's Well and St. Supery -- all from California. White Meritage wines are also made by Grande River Vineyards in Colorado, Three Rivers Winery in Washington and, if you're willing to give a Canadian winery a place of honor at your July Fourth party, you can try to hunt down a White Meritage from Sumac Ridge Estate Winery.

A perfect pairing for a White Meritage this summer is Pan-Seared Scallop Salad with Organic Greens, Champagne Vinaigrette and Avocado-Lemon Mayonnaise, offered by Carolyn Wente in her cookbook, "Sharing the Vineyard Table." Wente's brother, Phil Wente, co-founded Murietta's Well -- a producer of White Meritage -- with winemaker Sergio Traverso in 1990.

Pan-Seared Scallop Salad with Organic Greens, Champagne Vinaigrette and Avocado-Lemon Mayonnaise

(Serves Four)

Author's note: A food processor is the best equipment to use to make the mayonnaise, as it purées the avocado and incorporates the oil well. You can make it by hand, but it won't be as smooth.

Avocado-Lemon Mayonnaise

1 avocado, peeled and pitted
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons lemon juice, more if desired
1/2 cup olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
In a small food processor or blender, combine the avocado, egg yolk and lemon juice. Process until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and white pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Champagne Vinaigrette

1 teaspoon champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon finely minced shallot
1/2 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
In a bowl, combine the champagne vinegar, shallot and mustard. Whisk in the extra-virgin olive oil.

Pan-Seared Scallops

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound sea scallops
1/2 pound organic baby lettuces
Over high heat, heat a nonstick sauté pan. Add the olive oil. When very hot, add the scallops. Cook, turning once, until nicely browned on both sides (3-5 minutes per side, depending on size of the scallops). Drain onto paper towels. To serve, toss the lettuces in the vinaigrette and divide among four plates. Top with the scallops. Spoon the avocado mayonnaise over the scallops and serve immediately.

The Meritage Association was founded in 1988 by a small group of California vintners who established a new wine category, Meritage, to help consumers identify wines that represent the highest form of the winemaker's art -- blending -- and to distinguish those wines from so-called "table wines." Meritage is an invented word that combines "merit" and "heritage," and rhymes with the latter. It reflects the outstanding quality of the grapes and the centuries-old French tradition of blending wines. Today, more than 150 wineries in 16 U.S. states, Australia, Canada, Israel and Mexico produce Meritage wines. For more information, go to

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