Columns by John

John Brown has been a wine and food columnist in West Virginia since the 1980’s. His regular columns appear in the Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail under the title Vines & Vittles and in The State Journal - a statewide business weekly

Pushing the envelope: white wine and barbecue

Do you find yourself burdened with a plethora of outdoor chores this weekend? With the heat index reaching Death Valley levels, those grass cutting, weed eating honey-do’s will sap the last lick of energy from your seriously dehydrated body. Thirst is a terrible thing and so in weather like this, one needs – above all else – to force fluids (I’m pretty good at this), limit outdoor activities (golf and fishing don’t count) and spend as much time as possible indoors.


The fact that I won’t be leaving the house, though, doesn’t mean I won’t be preparing a delicious barbecue meal. In fact, I plan on doing a brisket of beef that I will slather with some of wineboy’s own sweet and sour barbecue sauce or “mop” (see recipe below). I’ll accompany the barbecue with creamy cole slaw and  a baked macaroni and (four) cheese casserole that’s flavored with chipotles in adobo sauce (you’ll find cans of these fiery little goodies  at many supermarkets).


So, how will I accomplish this feat without beating feet outdoors?  Simple.  I’ll use a pre-cooked and smoked brisket that you can find at some grocery stores or at Sam’s Club. I know, I know…It’s almost un-American to call this shortcut barbecue, but it is a pretty good alternative to subjecting my feeble bones to the very real possibility of heat stroke.


So what beverage goes with such great barbecue fare? I suspect that to some folks (particularly my good friend and fellow blogger Rich Ireland  - ) it’s traditional  to drink that foamy beverage with the menu suggestion above. And I wouldn’t disagree. However, after a little warm-up with your favorite frosty lager, I’m going to suggest you try a sip or two of  wine with this meal.  


If you’re thinking that full-flavored reds would go nicely with the brisket, you are somewhat correct. But barbecue also does nicely with cooling and refreshing wines, many of which are not red.  So how about trying a refreshing - heaven forbid –white wine?  No problem with either choice as far as I’m concerned, but first let me tell you about an experience that opened my eyes and my mind to unorthodox food and wine pairings. 


About 20 years ago, I had the opportunity to visit a winery in Lake County California  - which is about two hours directly north of the Napa Valley.  I made the trek to Guenoc Winery to visit with Orville Magoon – a Hawaiian hydrologist turned winemaker – who was the guiding force behind Guenoc. 

 Magoon was absolutely obsessed with Lilly Langtry (the “Jersey Lilly”), an 18th century actress/prostitute turned genteel lady , who occupied the main house that still exists on the Guenoc winery grounds. So much was Magoon taken with the “Lilly” that Langtry’s face adorned every bottle of Guenoc.


I had dinner with Magoon at the historic house and sipped several of his wines with a multi-course meal that  included barbecued wild boar that had been “ harvested” at the winery.  Magoon chose to accompany this course, much to my surprise, with a Guenoc chardonnay. Lo and behold! The match was delicious.


Magoon has long since sold his winery and Lilly’s face no longer graces the label, but the message resounded loud and clear:  you might be pleasantly surprised if you push the wine and food envelope every now and then.


 In honor of Magoon (and because the wines are particularly good), I’m going to recommend both of the following Guenoc wines as able accompaniments to the barbecue brisket.


2007 Guenoc Lake County Chardonnay ($12) – Lovely, ripe pear and bright fruit flavors highlight this nicely balanced chardonnay. Rich and round with excellent acidity, the wine is a refreshing accompaniment to the barbecue.


2006  Guenoc Lake County Petite Sirah ($14) – This is a full-flavored wine with tones of ripe dark fruit, coffee and spice with  none of the sometimes baked raisin flavors petite sirah can exhibit when made from fruit grown in very hot regions.  It is remarkably well balanced  and a delicious pairing with the brisket.


The WineBoy Mop

 One cup of Ketchup

One quarter cup of  apple cider vinegar

One teaspoon of dry mustard

One 12- ounce can of beer

Two ounces of molasses

Two tablespoons of brown sugar

One teaspoon of cayenne pepper

Two ounces of orange juice

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Turn down the  heat to a simmer and stir until the liquid begins to stick to the back of the spoon.  Baste the mop onto the brisket before putting it into the oven bag, and then brush again once it is removed from the bag. Reserve most of the mop to ladle over the brisket once it is sliced.


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