The Unassuming Wine Bros
Fire, Meat, and Wine (The Red Wines, Red Meat Edition)
Updated: Jan 24, 2021
Much like warm breezy weather and yacht rock, this month's article explores two things that are great together - delicious red wines and grilled red meats.
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.
Vigo: (Selecting the Meat)
My job was to procure different cuts of red meat. To do so, I sought the expertise and practical working knowledge of the butchers at the Butcher's Mark - a modern take on a traditional small-town butcher shop located next to the UTC Total Wine.
When I told Ben - the Butcher Mark's managing butcher – what we were attempting to do, he immediately knew which of his various cuts of red meat would pair perfectly with different types of red wine based on each cut's flavor profile and composition. While speaking with him, I got the sense that Ben was an enthusiastic master of his craft and was comfortable that his suggestions were spot on.
For example, Ben suggested that cabernet sauvignon would pair nicely with ribeye because it would not be overpowered by a ribeye's bold meat-to-fat ratio while at the same time matter-of-factly indicating that pinot noir would pair much less well with it because pinot noir would not stand up to a ribeye's boldness. Then when asked what would pair well with a pinot noir, without missing a beat, Ben recommended both filet mignon given its leanness and alternatively thought flat-iron steak would be great, as well.
Although I knew that filet mignon and pinot noir were an obvious match, my instant reaction to his other suggestion was, "Flat-iron steak, are you serious?" I know my way around a grill and have devoured countless steaks - including while deployed inside Baghdad's Green Zone - but I have never thought of flat-iron steak as anything more than truck stop cuisine or stew meat. However, given Ben's strong endorsement that flat-iron steak was on par with filet mignon's taste and tenderness, I knew I had to try it with our wines. Ben's even made practical seasoning suggestions, including to "just use kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper on both sides. The meat will do the rest." Appreciative of his insight, I decided to roll with all of his recommendations.
Patrick: (Selecting the Wine)
The plan was to grill the meats and taste the red wines at the home of a friend of the Wine Bros -"Chris". Aware of Ben's insight and knowing Chris - a wine enthusiast in his own right - would be eager to add a few great bottles for us to sample from his collection, I sought out to follow the script and select a pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, and one additional reasonably priced bottle of red wine that would match our meats.
For the wines, I visited two of my favorite "go-to" wine spots. The first was Fine Wine and Tastings on Main - Lakewood Ranch Main Street's boutique wine shop. There I selected The Dude 2018 Pinot Noir (4.0 Vivino; 14.1% Alc. By Vol.; $29.99), a Russian River Valley (CA) pinot noir that is aged 15 months in French oak.
Knowing I wanted two other bottles of red wine, I shopped UTC Total Wine. While conventional thinking indicates wines with higher tannins like cabernet sauvignon pair perfectly with meatier steaks, I have always preferred wines with a more red fruit profile than cabernet for this pairing. As a result, I opted for a cabernet-based red blend. I selected the 2015 Mascota Vineyards Unanime Gran Vino Tinto (94 James Suckling; 14% Alc. by Vol.) $24.99) - a Bordeaux-style red blend from Mendoza Province, Argentina comprised of 60% cabernet sauvignon, 25% malbec, and 15% cabernet franc that was aged in French oak for 20 months.
Intrigued by this highly rated red blend at a low price point - and given my love for the fruitiness and body of a great malbec - I decided that my third selection would be yet another bottle aged in french oak from the same vineyard as the red blend: the 2016 Mascota Vineyards Unanime Malbec (93 James Suckling; 14% Alc. by Vol; $19.99).
When I explained to Chris the meats, we planned to consume, and the three bottles of wine I selected, Chris offered up two more bottles from his collection that he felt would perfectly compliment them. The first was the 2016 Frank Family Vineyards cabernet sauvignon (90 Wine Advocate; 14.5% Alc. by Vol; $54) - a Napa Valley (CA) Cabernet-based blend comprised of 90% cabernet sauvignon, 9% merlot, and 1% cabernet franc.
Chris' second bottle was 2016 Justin Vineyards Isoceles (94 Wine Enthusiast; 15.5% Alc. by Vol.; $60) - a Bordeaux-style blend from Paso Robles (CA) consisting of 86% cabernet sauvignon, 6% merlot, 4% cabernet franc, 3% malbec, and 1% petit verdot that was aged in French oak. While more expensive than typical Unassuming Wine Bros bottles, I was grateful for Chris's added variety and generosity.
We decided another meatier steak was necessary based on the wine selections, so we added a Butcher's Mark, New York strip to the meat lineup.
Vigo: (Grilling the Meat)
To ensure even cooking throughout, I brought the steaks to room temperature before grilling them. I then followed Ben's seasoning instructions to help make sure each steak's flavor was maximized.
We grilled the steaks at approximately 500 degrees for proper searing on its exterior to capture its taste and juiciness in its interior. Once the steaks had a good sear/char, since we were grilling on Chris's grill - an unfamiliar grilling surface - and each cut was a different thickness, we used a meat thermometer to make sure each cut was cooked to the group's desired temperature. When using a meat thermometer, standard internal steak temperatures are 130 to 135 degrees for rare, 140 degrees for medium-rare, and 150 degrees for medium. If you like your steaks well done, well, you do you. To further bring out each cut's tenderness and taste, we let the steaks rest for about 10 to 15 minutes after grilling but before serving them.
Patrick (The Pairings):
We started with The Dude 2018 pinot noir and paired it with both the filet and the flat iron steak. The Dude was a deliciously smooth, easy-to-drink light to medium-bodied pinot noir. It was fruity with raspberry and cherry notes that finished with a subtle baking spice taste. The Dude was an easy-drinking wine. Although it paired well, I liked it better on its own than with the meats.
The Dude 2018 pinot noir paired well with both the filet mignon and the flat iron steak. In light of this, which cut of meat paired better with The Dude was mainly a matter of meat flavor preference. The filet mignon was mildly flavored while the flat iron steak was a bit richer. Because I prefer more mild-flavored foods with lighter wines, I felt The Dude pinot noir paired better with the filet.
The Meat/Wine Pairing:
While we grilled the ribeye and New York strip, we drank Chris' 2016 Frank Family Vineyards cabernet blend. This wine was had a dark but fruity taste of plum, and black cherry was medium to full-bodied and finished nicely. The 2016 Frank Family Vineyards cabernet was a delicious wine.
We sampled the 2015 Mascota Vineyards Unanime Gran Vino Tinto red blend and the 2016 Mascota Vineyards Unanime Malbec with the ribeye and New York strip. Neither disappointed.
The 2015 Unanime Gran Vino Tinto red blend had a noticeably black licorice aroma and an excellent mouthfeel. This blend had the perfect combination of light and dark fruit tastes with dark cherry. It was full-bodied with a lingering jammy and slightly smokey finish. At this price point, this was fantastic and a superb value wine.
The 2016 Unanime malbec was fruity, full-bodied, and packed with tannins. The 2016 Unaime is a delicious Argentinian Malbec. It is also an excellent value wine, and I would drink this bottle again.
Both Mascota Vineyard wines paired well with the New York strip and ribeye. The 2015 Unanime Gran Vino Tinto had a richness to it - likely from the cabernet franc - that made me prefer it with the New York strip. The ribeye aligned better with the tannins and fruit of the Malbec.
The Meat/Wine Pairings:
We finished our endeavor with Chris' 2016 Justin Vineyards Isosceles red blend. It was a rich, smooth, and full-bodied with notes of plum, cherry, chocolate, and licorice and an excellent finish. 2016 Justin Vineyards Isosceles was a fantastic bottle and was my overall favorite out of all of the wines we tried even though cabernet sauvignon is typically not my first choice.
Overall, Ben's suggestions were spot on, the meat quality was excellent, all of our meat and wine pairings were great, and Chris' hospitality and wine made our day. Chris' two bottles were the most expensive but also the best overall wines we sampled. However, in typical UWB fashion, my overall favorite and best recommendation is the 2015 Mascota Vineyards Unanime Gran Vino Tinto red blend when considering value and quality. It was dynamic both on its own and when paired with the New York strip.
Vigo (The Pairings):
"The Dude," is perfectly named, and that’s about all that is perfect about The Dude. The Dude is similar to a pleasant party guest that you forget about right after leaving the party. It's not a terrible wine, but it's more suited for pool drinking than with a nice meal.
If I had to compare, I would say The Dude is the Jennifer Aniston of pinot noir. Not so great on its own, but not bad with an excellent supporting cast. Though I thought The Dude was forgettable, it had a better showing with the flat-iron steak. The flat-iron was tender, juicy, and seasoned to perfection (great job to our host Chris), and The Dude brought its taste profile up a bit when paired with the meat.
The Meat/Wine Pairing:
Have you been to an event, and a super attractive person (man or woman) comes in the room, and you say in your inner monologue, "who are they and who invited them?" That's how I felt about the 2016 Frank Family Vineyards cabernet blend. After the forgettable The Dude pinot noir, the Frank Family Vineyards cabernet blend strolled in the room like it was George Clooney. This cabernet is balanced, bold, and peppery with a beautiful bouquet. If you love cabernet, get this wine you will not be disappointed.
I'm in agreement with Patrick regarding the pairing of the ribeye and the Frank Vineyards cabernet blend. The steak, classic rib eye, fatting, juicy, meaty, the Frank Vineyards cabernet, balanced, bold, and peppery. A match made in steak and wine heaven.
The Meat/Wine Pairing:
When done right, I compare red blends to an all-star team. They can be great on their own but put together correctly, incredible. The 2015 Unanime Gran Vino Tinto red blend is an excellent all-star team. All the varietals were playing with each other well. Dark fruit, firm body, nice finish on the pallet. The 2015 Unaime Gran Vino Tinto red blend is a wine to have in your "good friends are coming over" section of your wine rack.
Hot and heavy, was not a good friend to the 2016 Unanime Malbec. Grilling outside in 90-degree heat with a lot of red meat being consumed didn't do the 2016 Unanime Malbec any justice. Its dry, full-bodied richness didn't pair well with hot weather and grilled meat. This malbec would be something I would uncork in January when the temperature is more relaxed. Good wine, but not for hot summer grilling.
The 2015 Unaime Grand Vito Tinto red blend was the clear choice for me when paired with the fatty ribeye. The 2015 Unaime Grand Vito Tinto red blend wasn't overwhelmed by the ribeye richness but kept a light finish on the pallet with the fatty steak. The 2016 Unamine Malbec was too heavy when it came to the hot grilling and the hot outdoor temperatures.
The Meat/Wine Pairing:
Anytime something is packaged in a pyramid-shaped box with gold lettering, I'm going to be intrigued. Chris once again pulled from his wine collection a superstar. As stated before, when done well, red blends are the equivalent to an all-star team. The 2016 Justin Vineyards Isosceles wine isn't an all-star team, it’s the Dream Team. Every sip, legendary. The Isosceles was the most assuming of the unassuming selection, but sometimes you have to live a little.
Overall The Butchers Mark did not disappoint regarding its quality of meats. All the meats selections were on par with any fine dining restaurant in the Tampa Bay/Sarasota area. So if you want five stars dining from home, go to the Butchers Mark for your meat selections. Of all the wines selected, the 2016 Frank Family Vineyards cabernet blend was the show's star. Though paired with red meat, this wine would pair well with almost anything, even a vegan burger.
Doug R. wrote: Hi Unassuming Wine Bro's: I enjoyed your article on Summertime Wines. I'm a Sauvignon Blanc fan, especially those from New Zealand. I often go to a little Mom and Pop liquor store in the Publix shopping center on Lakewood Ranch Blvd. and 64. They have a decent wine selection, and their prices aren't bad. I was checking out some New Zealand SB one day when one of the owners suggested The Ned. I purchased it, and I was not disappointed. I returned and bought a second bottle, so it was interesting to see that The Ned was one of your favorite whites for summer. I would love to try the Mason Cellars SB, do you know where I can find it?
Regarding the Graham Beck, Brut NV, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits has carried the Graham Beck wines for years. Have you tried the Graham Beck, Brut Rose NV I think it's even better than the white.
UWB: Doug, thanks for being a loyal reader and emailing us for the last two articles (keep the emails and recommendations coming). The Mason Cellars Sauvignon Blanc, unfortunately, was an exclusive selection from the Lakewood Ranch Country Club Lodge. After doing some research, no grocery store or wine merchant in our area carries it. However, we will discuss some of our wine connections to see if they will bring it in the future. Since Rose has become my guilty summertime pleasure, I will take your advice and purchase Graham Beck Brut Rose' NV.
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 originally published in Around The Ranch newspaper on September 16, 2020.
Vigo (Humvees) / Patrick (Scales of Justice). Ratings are given on a 1-5 scale, with five being highest.