(This is a sponsored post.)***
In 1976, Joel Peterson began making wine at his Ravenswood vineyard near Sonoma, California. In a happy coincidence, I turned 18, then the age of majority in my home state of Michigan, that same summer. Having grown up in a house where wine was a regular part of meals, it was not long after that I first drank Ravenswood. I knew nothing about wine, but I liked the 3-Raven logo. As it turns out, I liked the wine, too.
In another happy coincidence, in my twenties, I was an itinerant semi-pro bicycle racer who spent a lot of time in Austin, Texas where I learned to appreciate real BBQ; the stuff that goes low and slow, tended by a pitman from 4 am until the brisket or pork shoulder gets pulled for dinner 12 hours later. What happens when you take a guy who reads about food incessantly, and is not afraid to take chances in the kitchen? You get a Michigan-born BBQ cook who knows the value of patience.
In the last happy coincidence for this post, this all comes together here. I was contacted by a rep for Ravenswood Wines and Toronto’s Barque BBQ shop to assess my interest in doing a sponsored post for Ravenswood and Barque.
“Really,” I thought. “Wine? Smoked meats? Where do I sign?”
I was supplied with a gift card to purchase my wine, and Barque supplied the great BBQ kit you see pictured. The metal box is a smoker box. Very handy for adding smoke flavors to food cooked under the broiler when weather keeps you away from the outside grill. It’s also an excellent tool if you use a gas grill. In addition, if you’re in the Toronto area, you can book a tutorial at Barque, learn to mix your own rubs, test them out, and in general, have your own BBQ party at a very hip BBQ joint in one of the world’s great cities.
There is a terrific wine and food shop near my home in Flint; Oliver T’s. Over the years, I’ve learned to trust the wine manager/co-owner Chris Capoccia. He’s a wine guy who likes wine, knows his wine, and sells you stuff you’ll want to drink again. I asked him about the Ravenswood Old Vines Zin 2012 I picked up.
“This is a real Zin,” Chris told me. “These Old Vine Zins are pruned way back, so the flavors really concentrate. You’re going to get a lot of fruit, just a bit of tannin, and the flavor’s going to stay with you. It’s not super-high alcohol like some Zins, so it won’t be hot, but it is around 13-13.5%. It should have plenty of that classic Zin cherry taste. This is what a Zin should taste like.”
The night’s menu:
Salad: arugula, tomatoes, cucumbers, and green onion in lemon vinaigrette.
Veg: local sweet corn
Meat: grilled pork steaks
Dessert: grilled Red Haven peaches
My wife hails from one of the world’s great BBQ cities – STL. St. Louis is noted for the finest thin crust pizza, fried ravioli, the St. Louis cut of ribs, and grilled pork steaks. Pork steaks are the unsung heroes of the BBQ world.
Dave’s Pork Steak FAQ
Step 1: Apply Barque’s pork rub liberally to both sides of meat.
FYI-Pork steaks are often sold as ‘pork shoulder blade steaks.’
Step 2: Set rack in jelly roll pan, with steaks on rack. Pour in coffee, Coke, or Dr. Pepper to cover bottom of pan.
Step3: Seal with foil and braise at 225F/110C for 90 minutes.
Step 4: Remove carefully from oven (there is now fat+coffee in bottom), remove foil, and allow pork steaks to dry. You may need to pat them with a paper towel. They need to be dry for best grill results. They’re now cooked through.
Step 5: Whilst they dry, build a two tier fire and pour yourself a glass of Ravenswood Zinfandel (Chef Perk #1).
Step 6: Give a quick hot sear, 2 minutes or so, to each side, to get a brown crunch on the meat. Brown equals flavor and texture.
Pro-tip: We like both sauced and dry-rubbed steaks so the dry rub only steaks are now done. Remove from heat, sprinkle with more rub, and tent under foil.
Step 7: Over the low heat side, apply sauce, cover, and allow sauce to glaze for several minutes. Flip meat and repeat.
Bring pork steaks in to house to general huzzahs and high fives.
And more Zin. L’Chaim!
According to my tasting buddies that night; my wife Cathy and our 22 year old son Aaron, Oliver T’s Chris’s description was spot-on.
Said Aaron, “Yeah, I’m getting a lot of old socks, and maybe some tobacco, and for sure, some leather. I kid. What I’m getting is some pepper and a lot of cherry smell and taste. This is good stuff, especially with these BBQ pork steaks. You need lots of flavor to cut through the pork fat. This does that really well. I’d drink this again for sure.
Said Cath, who was not in the room for Aaron’s assessment, “This is nice and spicy. Plenty of solid fruit flavor, I’m getting a raspberry thing, plus a bunch of cherry flavor. This is what I remember Zin tasting like. How many bottles did they let you buy?”
Darn good stuff, that Ravenswood.
And darn fine rubs provided by Barque. You see two rubs pictured. Rub #265 is for pork. I also grilled some chicken thighs with it on another evening and it was outstanding on chicken. Rub#72 is a vegetable rub. Although we didn’t grill any veg that night, I did sprinkle it on my sweet corn, and the flavors are on point with salt and butter.
As for the grilled peaches, that’s easy. Whilst the dinner table is being cleared, take a few Red Havens and cut them in half. Remove the stones. Give each half a quick spritz of cooking spray and sprinkle with a bit of brown sugar. Place on the grill. Don’t worry if some BBQ sauce is still there. BBQ sauced peaches are terrific. When you can smell caramelized brown sugar and the smell of cooking peaches brings you to your knees, they’re done. You can brush them with a bit of melted butter, and perhaps a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Try some moscato with them. You’re welcome.
*** Thanks to the fine folks at Toronto’s Barque for the BBQ kit, and the nice people at Ravenswood Vineyards for the wine. I couldn’t have done this without you.