Organic wine & food matching: Paul Dolan Zinfandel & Memphis dry rub barbecued pork

The first two things I need to tell you about the 2006 Paul Dolan Zinfandel (about $19) is that it’s produced by the former CEO/Winemaker of Fetzer Vineyards – one of California’s pioneers of organic grape growing – named, of course, Paul Dolan, and that it is indeed vinified 100% from CCOF certified organic grapes.

The second thing I need to tell you about the Paul Dolan Zinfandel is that it is not to be taken seriously. Which is not to say it isn’t a fine wine, because it is very fine indeed. But it is also a smooth, easy, fruit driven red wine – redolent of peppery spiced, sweet raspberry-veering-towards-blueberry aromas, and soft, ripe and piquant on the palate – guaranteed to lift the spirit and satisfy the soul if (and only if) enjoyed with a sense of levity rather than gravity.

In fact, to put you in the mood, even before you go out and purchase said Zinfandel, I want to assign you this homework – a clip by one of Hawai`i’s comedic legends, Rap Reiplinger, portraying a cooking show host named Auntie Marialani, teaching us exactly how to inspect our red wine (“not too sweet, not too rancid, but ju-u-ust right”) before cooking with it:

Auntie Marialani, as you should have seen, doesn’t quite connect the dots between her wine and dish, but that’s okay. Zesty, buoyantly balanced Zinfandels like Paul Dolan’s do not require a lot of thought: it will match lasagna or spaghetti and meatballs with as much aplomb as it would teriyaki beef and rice, sticky smoked barbecued ribs, fenneled or chili spiced sausages, well aged goudas and cheddars, and even arugula or mesclun salads dolled up with beets or chèvre, shaved parmigiano or crispy cornbread croutons, or just plain blackpepper, olive oil and dabs of balsamic vinegar.

But if I had to choose one match, I would prescribe two bottles of Paul Dolan Zinfandel (one for you, one for me) with a classic style of American dry rubbed pork ribs (my favorite: re this recipe for Memphis style dry rub). Ju-u-st right!


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"I fought against the bottle," as Leonard Cohen wrote, "but I had to do it drunk"... specializing in wine as a restaurateur, retailer, wine judge, journalist, frequent flyer and mental traveler. But to me, wine is a food like a rose is a rose. So why all the fuss? Currently: Editor-at-Large/Bottom Line Columnist, The SOMM Journal; Contributing Editor, The Tasting Panel. Awards: Sante's Wine & Food Professional of the Year (1998); Restaurant Wine's Wine Marketer of the Year (1992 & 1999); Academy of Wine Communications (commendation) for Excellence in Wine Writing and Encouragement of Higher Industry Standards; Electoral College Member, Vintners Hall of Fame at the Culinary Institute of America, Greystone.