The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2018

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july 2018  /  the tasting panel  /  55 W hen summer arrives, it's a surefire sign that grills and smokers will start working overtime as backyard barbeques and parties on the patio give us a reason to toast the season. With a brand story based on bold wines and gifted grilling, Gnarly Head wines found the perfect partner in grill master Steven Raichlen: The James Beard Award–win- ning author has written more than 30 cookbooks on the subject, including Planet Barbecue!, How to Grill, The Barbecue Bible, Project Smoke, Best Ribs Ever, and the new Project Fire in addition to creating and starring in television programs like Barbecue University and Primal Grill. (He's also appeared on iconic series like Iron Chef and The Oprah Winfrey Show.) A world-renowned authority on bar- beque and grilling, Raichlen shared his well-seasoned pairing expertise: "At the heart of barbeque is wood—you need it if you want to smoke your food, and you can use it to grill. Wine also has wood at the heart of it, especially red wines. Both are based on the soulful flavor of wood, which makes them a natural fit for each other. Barbeque, with its intense smoke and spice flavors, calls for a wine big enough to stand up to it." With these principles in mind, Raichlen says "Gnarly Head's wines are perfect for pairing for barbeque." "They are fruit-forward and can stand up to and complement the foods that are grilled and smoked," he adds. "They're also reasonably priced, so they're a good fit for outdoor cooking." Launched in 2004, with a mission to make an outstanding California Zinfandel, Gnarly Head began crafting wine with grapes thoughtfully chosen from the old- vine vineyards of the Lodi AVA. According to Gnarly Head Viticulturist Bud Bradley, the brand's name is based on the intensely flavorful fruits of the gnarled, head-trained vines represented in the Gnarly Head logo and grown in the rich yet porous sandy loam soils surrounding the city of Lodi. Consider that mission accomplished: Gnarly Head's Old Vine Zinfandel contin- ues to rank as the number-one Zinfandel in the U.S. by volume. Today, Gnarly Head offers much more than big red wines, with three bold white varietals for summer and beyond all crafted in a style that makes them perfect for pairing with proteins. The full Gnarly Head portfolio includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and a variety of adventurous red blends. Gnarly Head's new kid on the block, though, is the 1924 line. Inspired by the rebellious Prohibition era and a natural match for anything bold, blackened, and barbequed, these wines include Gnarly Head 1924 Double Black Red Blend, a dark blend with layers of blackberry, raspberry, chocolate, and caramel, and 1924 Double Black Cabernet Sauvignon, a rich full-bodied Cab with notes of French vanilla and espresso. Raichlen developed several new dishes inspired by these bold but structured wines. When creating any barbeque recipe, he says he first looks to a protein that's "big-flavored," affordable, and emblematic of summer before considering the grilling technique, which he often relies on to put a twist on the dish. In two savory recipes, Raichlen featured beef but went beyond the way the summer staple is typically prepared. His Gnarly Head grilled beef jerky and wood-grilled Gnarly Head gorgonzola burger served with red wine jam are exactly what you would anticipate for an ideal summer barbeque, managing to embrace trends and break the mold at the same time. Beyond its alliance with Raichlen, Gnarly Head will continue to take the barbeque scene by storm with upcoming grilling promotions. In partnership with leading U.S. charcoal brand Kingsford, Gnarly Head challenges barbeque lovers to show off their favorite pork ribs recipes in the tenth annual Gnarly Head Ribs Recipe Challenge for the chance to win a $5,000 grand prize. Gnarly Head also sponsors prominent barbeque events year-round like the Memphis in May Festival's World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, Naperville Ribfest, Ribfest Chicago, and St. Louis' Q in the Lou. Raichlen will also be joining Gnarly Head this fall with his Grilled Gnarly Jerky at Music City Food + Wine Festival in Nashville, Tennessee. In keeping with the authentic and unexpected style of its wine, Gnarly Head recently launched the new "Go for Bold" campaign. Gnarly Head makes it easy to follow this motto with its 13 bold varietals and blends, encouraging consumers to celebrate the season—rain or shine, red or white—with their favorite bottle of Gnarly Head wine. Gnarly Head 2016 Chardonnay, Central Coast, CA ($15) A pineapple-lime burst of sunshine greets the nose of this light, lithe white that's super-summer fresh. Ginger snap and peach make up some of the standout flavors edging up against a crisp, lively acidity. 92 —Meridith May Gnarly Head 1924 Limited Edition Double Black Cabernet Sauvignon, Lodi, CA ($15) The year 1924 signifies a dark time for the wine business, as it was in the midst of Prohibition. But a light does shine on this year as well: It's when Delicato winery planted its first vineyards. Perhaps there were some black-market sales behind the scenes, but times have changed and this tribute wine makes a stand for approachability and food- friendliness. Just-juiced black berries are fragrant with a hint of vanilla, while the dense, creamy texture delivers a juicy core of black fruit and black licorice. Dark chocolate tannins make their way to the long finish. 92 —M.M. o y

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