Pairing Friends, Ribs & Wine

Wine Dinner Group Time
The four-mutual-schedule gods finally approved and we had a date for our semi-regular wine dinner group.  Summertime calls for the grill, and Bruce offered to make his favorite ribs from an Emeril Approved recipe. Sounded great!

As the wine guy for our group, I have the challenge of finding a selection of wines to open our horizons without leaving everyone saying “huh, what was he thinking??”  Our group includes 1 member who only drinks white wines, and one who would be happy if every dinner would be titled “Cabernet Sauvignon, what else is there?”.  In general, the group’s preferences run to rich, flavorful American wines, but they’re willing to try new things, too.

I think ribs and summer pose a fun challenge, as we will have several lighter side dishes and rich, sauce-covered ribs on the same plate.  Time to experiment!

Which would you pick with ribs?

Which would you pick with ribs?

BBQ Pairing Thoughts for Our Group
Here’s my pairing advice for our group, what do you think?

  • Think more about the sauce than the food underneath
  • Think about matching the other foods being served: coleslaw, potato salad, green salad
  • Think fruit forward, big bold flavors
  • Not the time for subtle, complex, $$$ wines. These are all $15-30
  • Spicy sauce – avoid high alcohol (14%+) and high tannins
  • Complement (bold, fruit and spice) or Contrast (clean and crisp)
  • Drink what you like, share with friends!

The Lighter Side Wines
We always open the dinner with a sparkling wine, today we chose a Cava.  The opening sparkler goes quickly as we get settled in, so I thought we should give a sparkling wine a chance at the dinner table.

Lambert de Seyssel – Traditional method sparkler from France (from Kermit Lynch Wine Club).

Champalou Vouvray – Medium body, crisp elegance.  This was a surprise hit for our white wine fans.

La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay – Rich, buttery oaky Chardonnay, this was well liked and familiar.

Domaine Rouge-Bleu Dentelle Rosé – A dry, crisp rosé was a bit of a nice surprise for our friends.

Sparkling wine, whites & rosé

Sparkling wine, whites & rosé

The Reds – Go Big!
Easton Amador County Zinfandel – Lighter, leaner take on Zinfandel.  Bright red fruit.

William Gordon Alexander Valley Zinfandel – Rich, ripe and a bit sweet, maybe just right with ribs?

Famiglia Meschini Malbec Reserva – Rich dark fruit and leather on the nose

D’Arenberg Shiraz “The Footbolt” – I don’t drink a lot of Shiraz, this wine was either flawed or just way out of balance.  Maybe just a bad bottle? Need to give it another try sometime.

NxNW Cabernet Sauvignon – Our resident Cab lover gave this a good score as a nice Cab at a nice price.

A wide range of rich reds

A wide range of rich reds

Everyone Gets to be Their Own Expert
I made up sheets for each of our experts to rate the wines alone and with the food.  We had fun comparing notes, and some just had fun drinking the wines; that’s ok, too.  We started by tasting through all the wines with a choice of 3 different bruschetta’s.  The Domaine Rouge-Bleu Rosé was the winner with bruschetta, especially the traditional tomato/garlic/EVOO/basil version.

We worked our way through all the wines before dinner, tasting each one and rating it on its own.

We worked our way through all the wines before dinner, tasting each one and rating it on its own.

Bruce’s Favorite Ribs

Chuck swears by Chef Neal’s Baby Back Ribs With Orange Chipotle Glaze, popularized by Emeril LaGasse.  After having them, I agree with Bruce!



Favorite Pairings
For a white wine lover, the Champalou was a winner.  It paired best with the side dishes, as the bold flavor of the ribs bowled over the entire lot of whites.

Our Cab lover wasn’t swayed by the other reds, he thought the NxNW was great by itself and great with the ribs.

Me? I was surprised. I tried at least a taste of each of the wines with the ribs.  Somebody has to do the hard work, right? I like the Famiglia Meschini Malbec Reserva, but I think of it as a fireplace wine.  I don’t usually think of it as a natural partner with food as it is so rich and smooth.  Somehow, the rich dark fruit and touch of leather was a perfect match for the ribs.

Ribs, salad, fruit - my wine of the evening was the Malbec

Ribs, slaw, potato salad, fruit – my wine pairing of the evening was the Famiglia Meschini Malbec

What’s your favorite pairing with ribs?  Have you ever been surprised with something unexpected?


5 Responses to “Pairing Friends, Ribs & Wine”
  1. chef mimi says:

    La Crema and other pinots from the Sonoma Coast are some of my most favorites!!! A great collection!

  2. Fun night and fun post. Thanks for sharing.

  3. You guys know how to party! I gained 10lbs and raided a liquor store after that post – loved every word more than I should. Cheers!

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