The Unassuming Wine Bros
Fire, Meat, and Wine (The Charcuterie and Pork Pairing Edition)
Updated: Jan 24, 2021
To start, we apologize to all our vegan readers. This article, except for our wine recommendations, may not be for you. This is because this month the Unassuming Wine Bros have thoroughly explored the interaction of fire, meat, and wine and are here to tell you how it all went down.
If it's your first time reading this article, welcome! We are The Unassuming Wine Bros (UWB) – Patrick and Vigo - two regular guys who love everything about wine, including writing about it. Our goal is to explore the nuances of wine, share our adventures with you, and have a little fun along the way.
My job was to select the meat for what we hoped would be a grilling and wine pairing extravaganza. Although I had never been there before, I have always been intrigued by the Butcher's Mark while shopping next door at Total Wines at the Shoppes at University Town Center. I decided to stop in.
During my visit, Ben - the Butcher Mark's managing butcher - patiently walked me through various types of meat, each time identifying the precise cuts that would pair well with different types of wines. During our conversation, Ben stated, "You don't want to go with red meat (with a white wine pairing), but chicken or a nice pork chop would do fine." Up to that point, I had not considered incorporating grilled pork into our meat and wine pairings. However, the more I thought about what Ben said and inspected his pork chop cuts, the more I knew it would be a blast to pair grilled pork with different wines.
Ben selected two of his best pork chops for us, each approximately 2 inches in thickness. He explained, "these (pork chops) will pair nicely with chardonnay, but the pork will need a very savory seasoning of sage, thyme, garlic, and onions." I said, "Let's do this," and within minutes was out the door with my purchase, hoping that Patrick was doing his best wine selecting.
I had two tasks: selecting wines to pair with whatever type of meat that Vigo purchased and playing host to the grilling and subsequent tasting.
Regarding the first task, when I learned that one of Vigo's selections was pork, I knew an oaky chardonnay would pair with it well and immediately had a specific one in mind: Grgich Hills Estates 2016 Chardonnay (93 - Wine Enthusiast; 14.1 % ABV; $37.99). And while it is a bit on the pricier side for a typical Unassuming Wine Bros selection, I knew this famous Napa chardonnay and personal favorite would be the perfect conventional pairing and was excited to taste it with the pork chops.
However, I was also determined to take an unconventional route and find an affordable red wine pairing for the pork chops as well. To do so, I ventured to Fine Wines and Tastings on Main on Lakewood Ranch Main Street. There I picked up a bottle of Willamette Valley Vineyards "Estate" 2017 Pinot Noir (90 - Wine Spectator; 13.7 % ABV; $29.99). I was encouraged by the so called “expert’s” suggestion that this wine would go well with pork.
Regarding my second task, because I was playing host to a team of hungry meat-eating wine tasters, I knew that merely preparing a bunch of meat slabs would not suffice. To help feed this diverse, hungry crew, we ordered the perfect accessory for any party: a medium 10x10 charcuterie and cheese box from Charcuterie and Cheese ($65; www.charcuterietogo.com). Besides the high quality of its contents and outstanding presentation, the best part about the box was its variety and convenience - to buy all these ingredients piecemeal and assemble a similar plate would be far costlier and far more time-consuming and complicated than quickly ordering a box online. Charcuterie and Cheese also offers free weekday and weekend delivery for close distances. As a busy professional with "foodie" friends, this purchase made a lot of sense.
Because we were beginning with this boxes’ many different bites, cheeses, and spreads, we needed an affordable, versatile, and great tasting sparkling wine to get us started. I am an unabashed champagne fan - but despite my great fondness, know that decent champagne is often unnecessarily expensive - especially when it is served as a starter. As a cheaper alternative, I sought a sparkling wine from outside France's champagne region but still bottled in the traditional method. When I learned that Domaine Carneros 2016 Brut (4.0 Vivino; $28.99) - a California sparkling wine bottled in partnership with one of my favorite champagnes - Tattinger - was roughly half its price but still bottled like champagne, I took a leap of faith with it.
The 2016 Domaine Carneros Brut was a pleasant surprise on its own and also paired great with the goat cheese, brie, and nuts in the charcuterie and cheese box. It was fresh, crisp, and easy to drink throughout with lemon and apple notes and a nutty finish. It was fantastic at its price point, and I will be drinking his bottle again. It is a great choice to serve at a party as a starter wine or with a main course.
With Ben the Butcher's advice still fresh in my head, I evaluated the various spices in my kitchen and had a eureka moment when I came across the Badia brand's "Complete Seasoning." It had every ingredient we needed - spices, garlic, and onion, to name a few. It was the perfect seasoning for our pork.
After patting dry and seasoning both sides of the chops, it was time to grill. The optimal pork grilling temperature is 450 degrees. Pork chops will best be prepared when they are grilled on each side for approximately 5 minutes, with slight variation depending on thickness. We cooked the chops in this manner, and when the seasoning on both sides appeared bronzed, we transferred the pork chops to a less hot grill burner and continued to grill them at 380 degrees for another 5 minutes per side. The secret with cooking any kind of meat is the feel. With pork, it should feel firm with a bit of spring. If you're not great with the feel method, a meat thermometer is your next best bet. When the internal temperature of the pork chop is approximately 140 degrees, it's fully cooked. To ensuring maximum tenderness and taste, it is best to let grilled pork rest for about 10 minutes before serving it.
Patrick (The Pairings):
The pork chops were perfectly seasoned and grilled. A special shout out is definitely warranted for friend of the Bros, "Pat" – a contract lawyer by weekday and weekend grill master - for his grilling tips and overall assistance. The pork chops were flavorful and tender and, given their medium texture and mildness, were well suited for both an oaky chardonnay and medium-bodied pinot noir.
I first sampled the 2016 Grgich Hills Estate chardonnay. This iconic personal favorite never disappoints, and this particular bottle was no different. It is fresh, extremely drinkable, and perfectly balances lemon, pineapple, and very subtle oak notes. I found this bottle to be delicious.
The wine verdict:
The 2016 Grgich Hills Estate chardonnay paired perfectly with the seasoned and grilled pork chop and this combination was my overall winner! To all of the various tasters involved, this pairing was the highlight of the entire undertaking.
The pairing verdict:
Next, I tried the 2017 Willamette Valley Vineyards "Estate" pinot noir. This wine was fruity, refreshing, and balanced. It was easy to drink even on a hot summer day as it was more light-bodied than anticipated.
The wine verdict:
Admittedly I am generally biased toward pairing pork with white wines and particularly doing so with the 2016 Grgich Hills Estates chardonnay. In light of this, the 2017 Willamette Valley Vineyards "Estate" pinot noir had an uphill battle. After tasting it with the pork, I believe this pinot noir would be better on its own or with a lighter food pairing such as white fish as it was a bit too bright to stand up to the texture of our grilled and seasoned pork. In other words, good wine that we paired poorly. I will own this mistake.
The pairing verdict:
My overall winner: the grilled and seasoned pork chops with the 2016 Grgich Hills Estates chardonnay was an instant home run, clearly the best of the two pork chop pairings, and one of the best food/wine combos I have ever sampled together. This was a fantastic match. As it's a bit pricey, pick up a bottle, and save this wine pairing for a special occasion. You won’t be disappointed.
Vigo (The Pairings):
The pork chops from the Butchers Mark were phenomenal. Savory, tender, and juicy I can’t remember a time I’ve had a better piece of pork that was cooked to perfection. Though Patrick gave “Pat” a lot of credit regarding the outcome of the chops we all know it was the guy behind the grill (Vigo) that made pork perfection a reality.
I can’t say I’m a fan of chardonnay in any of its forms. Soft, buttery or oaky has never been my palette’s wheel house. However, the 2016 Grgrich Hills Estates Chardonnay was neither too buttery nor too oaky and struck a moderate clean taste with a slight aroma of smoke coupled with a mild floral bouquet that chardonnays are known for.
Sometimes you just get things right and the pork, the seasoning and the selection of the 2016 Grgrich Hills Estates chardonnay was one of those times. The juicy pork, savory spices and the clean floral notes of Grgrich Hills Estates chardonnay all coupled together was a pairing made in wine and meat heaven.
Pinot noir is always a welcome selection when out to dinner or visiting with friends. On its own the 2017 Willamette Valley Vineyards "Estate" pinot noir is a solid choice. Beautiful pale red color, even bodied with hints of cherries and leather. I would not refuse a glass - or two - of this wine.
Not all things that are great on their own go well when put together. Much like pairing stripes and plaids pairing the 2017 Willamette Valley Vineyards “Estate” pinot noir and a savory pork chop goes over about the same way.
My overall winner: Surprisingly, my overall winner was the meat, not the wine. I cannot describe in words how delicious the pork chops from the Butcher's Mark was. If you want a premium cut of meat at an excellent price, go to the Butcher Mark. That being said, regarding our pork chop pairings, there is no better match in wine heaven than the 2016 Grgich Hills Estates chardonnay. If you try this pairing, it will surely be a meal you'll talk about for weeks.
Sandy F., from Boca Raton, FL, wrote, "I love wine but sometimes doesn't love me the next day. I've heard about clean wines that don't give you that bad feeling the next day. Have any recommendations for me?"
UWB: We hate to hear anyone not enjoy wine, even the next day after. We will check into a clean wine for you and make a suggestion next issue.
Let us know whether you agree, disagree, or whether you prefer other wines or pairings more. We'd love to hear your input and suggestions and are always thrilled to receive your feedback, information, and opinions. We can be reached at VigoandPatrick@gmail.com.
This article was organically published in Around The Ranch newspaper on August 19, 2020.
Vigo (Humvees) / Patrick (Scales of Justice). Ratings are given on a 1-5 scale, with five being highest.
This article was published in Around The Ranch newspaper in August 2020. Digital copies of Around The Ranch can be found here.