For wine-lovers, one of the many benefits of being in the wine country is that you have better access to lesser-known varieties that often take third or fourth billing on back labels. Much like character actors, these little guys are usually confined to supporting roles, as varieties with mass-appeal usually dominate the shelves as both varietals and blends. In the tasting rooms of the wine country, however, the Bruce McGills and the Dan Hedayas of the wine world are afforded the opportunity to take center-stage and shine on their own merit. It was in this arena that I came across an accidental variety called the Petite Sirah, and more recently, the 2010 Pendleton Estate Petite Sirah.
My initial impression of the Petite Sirah was that there was nothing "petite" about these Sirahs. Petite Sirahs are known to make big, bold, intense wines. And this Pendleton-offering didn't fall too far from the tree. The deep-purple of the ripe, dark berries, along with plum and licorice characteristics were a recurring theme as I wrapped my four senses around it. On the nose, hints of dark chocolate, mocha and cedar added much-welcome complexity. On the palate, beefiness abounded while the woody and tar-like flavors became more pronounced under the ripe fruit. The mid-palate seemed subdued by the aggressive tannins that plowed its way toward the back-palate, leading to a peppery finish.
By nature, this Petite Sirah wasn't quite the solo dancer Michael Jackson was. It needed food like Fred needed Ginger. It wanted big, bold food. And with it, it could shine brighter than it could on its own. Therefore, in pairing this wine, I wanted something just as big and bold. To balance the firm tannins, I needed animal proteins and fat. I also wanted to echo the ripe, jamminess with smoke and sweetness. I wanted something rough and rustic. The choice was obvious. I had to make myself some Korean BBQ. That sweet, savory, unctuous Korean short-ribs thats so full of flavor it makes you cry out for rice and kimchi for balance.
Although, it wasn't quite like Fred and Ginger, it worked just the same. There was none of that subtle nuance and delicate artistry. This was straight-up, in your face goodness that made sense. The unctuous meatiness of the short-ribs embraced similar qualities in the wine while smoothing out the pervasive tannins and the peppery finish. The sweet/savory marinade and the charred smokiness echoed and accentuated the ripe fruit of the Petite Sirah. The accompanying steamed rice and kimchi added balance and dimension, resulting in a symphony of intermingling flavors that seemed to harmonize into a satisfying crescendo.
Pair with 2010 Pendleton Estate Petite Sirah
5 Lbs. Short-ribs
1.5 C Soy sauce
1/2 C + 2 T Golden brown sugar
8 Oz. Cola
4 T Sesame oil
2 t Ground pepper
2 t Salt
1 Bunch Scallions, chopped into batons, whites split in half
1 Large or 2 small Onion, julienned
8 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 T Ginger, minced
2 t Liquid smoke of mesquite
(T=tablespoon, t=teaspoon, C=cup)
1. Combine all liquids, sugar, salt and pepper with a whisk until dissolved.
2. Add vegetables.
3. In a plastic, sealable container combine all ingredients. Or, in two separate gallon-size freezer bags, portion the meat in half, pour in the marinade; seal air tight; and work marinade into the meat.
4. Marinate for two days, drain off marinade and reserve, pat down meat with paper towel, and grill on high heat. (You could save the remaining marinade or cook it down to use as sauce.)
5. Serve with steamed rice and kimchi.
Note: If desired, add toasted sesame seeds and/or ground Korean pear.