Like any real guy, when left to my own devices, about the best I can do in the kitchen is heat a bowl of chili. But with my “significant other” (I love that term only because I hate it so much) gone two evenings a week, chili is starting to get pretty boring. So tonight I decided to splurge and snuck out to Jack In The Box for a nice, comforting, heart-clogging meal. Ah…the pleasures of cholesterol.
There's nothing quite like a greasy, lukewarm fast food meal, but the really tough question for this winoholic was what wine to pair with a burger and fries. Truly, this is one of the weightiest questions of our times. Forget your war in Iraq, your attorney firings, and your violations of fundamental Constitutional rights. Getting the perfect wine and burger match is what's really important.
And it's a head scratcher, too. French fries are going to be a tough match, given the huge dripping quantities of deeply soaked-in grease. And the burger isn't necessarily a slam-dunk either. Sure there's a huge slab of ground up dead bovine, but what about the lettuce, tomato and pickles? This wouldn't be any easy job for even the most knowledgeable sommelier.
There was only one way to handle this conundrum…buy a bunch of different wines and try them all. Hey, hey, hey! I'm getting' blotto tonight!
So, before I visited the drive through of my old alma mater (yep, my first job was swabbing floors at good ole Jack's), I stopped by Cost Plus to pick up three potential matches: a chardonnay, a zinfandel and a cabernet sauvignon. At Jack's, I scored a gen-u-wine sirloin burger with fries and a diet coke. Then I headed home for gustatory feast.
Sebastiani 2004 Sonoma County Chardonnay
I wasn't expecting much from this match. Burger and fries seems pretty red wine to me, but I figured there were probably a few idiots out there who might try a white wine. This was a very light and thin chard, with a flinty, mineral nose and weak fruit. With the fries, it was overpowered by the grease, though the fries did bring out a bit of melon-like fruit. With the burger, the flavors of the tomato and lettuce really came out, but the flavor of the wine itself disappeared under an onslaught of 100% pure sirloin beef (and whatever ghastly fillers go into a fast food burger). Overall, though, the pairing was better than expected. Match: 2.5 out of 5. $9.99.
Bogle 2005 Old Vine Zinfandel
Some old guy was going on and on about how great a wine this was while I was at Cost Plus. I had some very grave doubts about his sanity and sobriety at the time, but decided to give it a try anyway. Dark and rich, this wine is a Hiroshima fruit bomb, with metric tons of blackberry and raspberry fruit. Not a good match with the fries, as they brought out an awkward tart acidity in the wine, and the delicate French fry taste got lost in the shuffle. It was a better match with the burger, but the huge insistent fruit overpowered even the slab of 100% pure dead cow with wave after wave of juicy fruity flavors. I rate it a solid “nah”. Match: 2.0 out of 5. $8.99.
Rodney Strong 2004 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon
This is a surprisingly Bordeaux style cab, with strong notes of earth, dust and green pepper on the nose. Dark, intense fruit on the tongue, but a touch overripe. Overall, a powerful, intense wine, with strong but not overdone tannins. The fries brought out the earthiness in the wine, while the grease tamed the tannins. Still, my mouth was left with a really dry feeling after eating the fries. With the burger, this was a much better pairing. The green fruit flavors in the wine accentuated the lettuce and tomato, while the cholesterol in the meat moderated the tannins. But overall, this wine had more even more testosterone than the burger and tended to overwhelm it. Match: 3.0 out of 5. $12.99
2007 Diet Coke
Light and sweet with a bright and noticeable frizzante. Flavors hit with a strong whammy and then pass quickly, leaving a clean, refreshed palate. This drink was very similar with both the fries and the burger, bringing a burst of flavor and sweetness that quickly disappeared, leaving the pure flavors of fried potatoes, grease, meat and secret sauce behind. Nearly ideal. Match: 4.25 out of 5. $0.99.
This little foray into wine and food pairing set me back almost $40, and the conclusion is that a 99-cent coke is a better match with a burger than a decent cabernet? Damn. I must be some kind of sucka.