Weekend at Webster’s – BBQ Style Tasting

We had the immense pleasure of doing a talk and tasting at one of our local businesses – Webster’s Fine Stationers, in Altadena, CA, the other night.  If you were there, you know what a great time we had.

But more to the point, we also got to taste some great wines, courtesy of Webster’s Liquors (they and the Fine Stationers make up the family-owned Webster’s Village, on North Lake Avenue in Altadena).  The other part of the venture was to look at what wines go well with BBQ foods.

Pairing wine with the kinds of foods that turn up at your traditional holiday grill fest can be tricky because many wines don’t taste that good with ketchup, relish and BBQ sauce – it’s that sweet thing fighting with the acids in the wine, kind of like tasting some orange juice right after a big mouthful of pancake with maple syrup – blech!

But there are several wines that do very nicely with ‘Q, and we came up with eight of them.  For those of you who asked for the list, here ’tis, with a couple notes on why we liked them and why they seemed to work with the foods that were paired with them.

However, we do want to offer a couple quick shout outs to the food providers – Bonnie B’s Smoking BBQ Heaven and Amy’s Patio Café.  The food was great – which didn’t hurt the wine any!

And here they are:

Stella Di Notte Prosecco

This is a non-vintage Italian sparkling wine.  Most proseccos are on the sweet side, which is one of the reasons we picked it.  Not only do bubblies, in general, go with just about anything, a slightly sweet one is particularly good with sweet sauces.  Turns out, this one ain’t that sweet.  It smelled of berries in the nose and tasted likewise the mouth, or in other words, very light and tasty.  We paired this with popcorn, because popcorn goes with all wines.

Freixenet Brut Cava

This is the only supermarket wine we picked, but we wanted to highlight this Spanish sparkler for two reasons – one, it’s a dry bubbly, closer to what traditional Champagne is, and two, it’s pretty accessible and tasty.  We paired it with carrots and ranch dressing, the bubbly mixing well with the slightly sweet carrots, but still cutting through the fat of the ranch dressing.

Pacific Rim 2007 Gewurztraminer

Most gewurztraminers are pretty sweet, which is a good thing if spicy is a major part of your menu.  This one is out of Washington state, with a 1.7 percent residual sugar (as in really sweet), but it doesn’t taste that way.  The folks at the tasting all screamed Thai food.  We served it with hot links, which made Anne cry, but then Anne is a notorious weenie.

Pacific Rim 2007 Dry Riesling

Rieslings are also pretty sweet – and sweet does foil the burn of spicy foods, which is why rieslings are another good foil for Thai and Eastern Indian cuisine.  But this riesling was fermented until it was dry – as in the yeasts ate up all the sugars and didn’t leave any behind.  Mike also pulled up a hint of the traditional kerosene note that rieslings are known for.  But, hey, if you use lighter fluid to grill those hot dogs, you’ve got your match.  By the way, the kerosene wasn’t all that strong and the wine certainly didn’t taste that way.  In fact, it tasted pretty darned good with the hot dogs.

The Crusher 2007 Viognier

We got a small flutter of controversy with this one.  Most of the guests were chowing down on the BBQ chicken wings and crying out how good the wine and the chicken were together (and viognier’s flowery smell and dry, but almost sweet taste, do work well here). The viognier also had the remarkable ability to change flavors over the two hours of the tasting. Mike had detected brown spices similar to those used in hot dogs! But we had one guest, in particular, who tried the wine and said, “You know, I just don’t like viognier.”  That might not sound like a triumph, but to us, it was major.  Not everyone has to like everything and the whole point of a tasting like this is to try things and decide what you do and don’t like.  As opposed to running after that naked emperor just because the folks leading the event are.

The Spanish Quarter, 2006

A basic red wine made from 55 percent cabernet sauvignon and 45 percent tempranillo (the work horse grape of Spanish wines), this was the one wine that shouldn’t have done well.  It’s a more traditional dry red.  Tempranillo also has a distincitve nose of sweet tobacco and herbs, which actually tastes better than it sounds.  We paired the wine with sliders with blue cheese.  OMFG!  Yummy.  Okay, we also had the second controversy of the night.  We’d been told that these were vegan sliders.  But they were, in fact, turkey.  And the wine was light enough, you could probably have served them with the ribs.

OZV, Old Zin Vines, 2005 Lodi Zinfandel

Just so you know, Anne does not like zinfandel.  She believes jam belongs on toast, not in her glass.  Mike loves zin.  And we both agree, this one is a great barbecue wine.  There’s enough fruit – berries especially – to handle the sweet sauces and enough backbone to either be served alone or with some of the magnificent ribs we had.

Moss Roxx, 2005, Old Vines Lodi Zinfandel

This is a more traditional, in your face, zinfandel.  But again, serve it with ribs, and you’ve got something special.  Although, truth be told, the crowd was split.  Some thought the OZV made the better “cocktail” wine – or wine you serve by itself. The blackberry flavor and the spicy sensation of ground black pepper at the back of the palate in the Moss Roxx was a showstopper for Mike. BTW, this was the most expensive wine of the night, and the only one over $20.

Lesson learned – there are wines that go with BBQ.  And by the end of the night, no one’s that worried about what goes with what.  They’re just happy to have good friends and good wine.

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