Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Grill Power: Donum Estate & The Bounty Hunter Talk Pinot and Pork

Let me start by saying, as a Southerner, I’m a touch obsessed with barbecue, be it North Carolina, sweet Texas or Memphis style. When I was first introduced to downtown Napa’s Bounty Hunter BBQ, which is run by Tiburon native Will Wright (pictured below, with his grilling tongs), you can imagine my wariness. A California boy – and a former investment banker – who knows his way around a smoker? 

It turns out that Will, once the chef and now the GM at the Bounty Hunter, has done stints in some of California’s finest kitchens, including the French Laundry. Will once told me that he’s always loved to grill, but he’s really been able to perfect his craft at the Bounty Hunter. Since his promotion to GM, Will doesn’t get his hands dirty in the kitchen as often as he’d like, but the tradeoff is that he now spends more time finessing the incredible 400-plus selection of wines they offer their guests. 

Over the years, Will has become intimately acquainted with some of these wines, including the lineup of Donum Estate Pinot Noirs. With grilling season kicking into high gear, we thought it was about time for the California Culinary Academy grad to take break from his grill and two Kamado smokers to talk Pinot and pork pairings with Donum Estate.

Below are some of his tips for creating Pinot-friendly barbecue menus:

1. Ok, let’s start with the meat. It’s the foundation, after all. Then, we’ll work our way up to the sauce. For Pinot Noir, what are your top recommendations when it comes to cue?

PORK, PORK AND MORE PORK!!! But wait it’s not that easy, the breed plays an important role; my two favorites are Berkshire (also known as Korobuta in Japan) and Duroc. Berkshire pork is prized for juiciness, flavor and tenderness; it’s pink-hued and heavily marbled. Its high fat content makes it suitable for long slow cooking (BBQ) and high-temperature cooking (Grill). At the BH we use Duroc which is clean and crisp. Its taste and texture are polished and easy on the palate. Duroc pork is a standard, not too fatty, not too lean, not too strong but certainly more flavorful than its factory farmed cousins. After the breed it comes down to the cut of meat. I always enjoy a nice double cut pork chop but pork butt and ribs are probably the most commonly enjoyed. For the Donum Pinot I would say pairing it with an Apple wood smoked double cut pork chop or grilled pork tenderloin would be the elegant way to go!

2.The sauce, of course, is a little trickier.  What are some common mistakes to watch for when it comes to pairing barbecue and Pinot Noir? (i.e., a sauce that’s too sweet souring the wine, etc.)

That’s easy, stay away from too sweet and too spicy! A sauce can overpower the delicate flavor of pork just as easy as it can overwhelm many Pinots. I always recommend that our guest try the sauces first so they have an idea of what’s in store. I’m also a firm believer that BBQ should be dry when it gets to the table, if a guest wants to slather it in sauce that’s their prerogative but our custom rubs we use impart huge flavor characteristics and that can be lost in a puddle of sauce. Lastly, mustard/vinegar base sauces are a no no with pinot, the acidity is just too high.

3.Ok, then what should a person look for in a sauce  (what would make a sauce compatible)?

Smooth and smoky with a touch of black pepper spice to bring out the spice in the pinot. There are so many sauces on the market that I suggest trying a couple totally different sauces and seeing where it goes. Many Q sauces incorporate fruits in them, be careful these can be too sweet, there a lot of good Q sauces out there but there are a lot of questionable ones to say the least, I guess it all comes down to trial and error.

4. For you, what would the ultimate Donum Pinot and cue menu be? With, say, an older vintage like the 2002 Donum Carneros Estate Pinot?

The '02 is very elegant, its rich fruit characteristics are followed by a soft subtle sweet smoke which reminds me of an early morning camping, the campfire has gone out but there is still that slightly sweet smoke wafting in the air. For that reason I would pair it up with a grilled duck breast and coffee-molasses "Q" sauce, the sweet and bitter combo of ingredients creates room for the rich fruit to come in and balance out the equation.

And something younger, like our 2008 Carneros Estate Pinot?

The '08 is big, full of life and vigor, bright red fruit, clean lines with great acidity! I would pair this up with a bourbon and peach glazed pork chop, the alcohol and sweetness from the sauce will add depth of flavor when paired with this Pinot while also cutting through the fattiness of the pork chop.

For more information about our 2008 Donum Carneros Estate Pinot Noir, please click here. To receive a library allocation of our 2002 Donum Estate Carneros Pinot Noir, which is available in extremely limited quantities, please email me at bgadke@thedonumestate.com.

To learn more about the Bounty Hunter Wine Bar and its wine and food selections or to take a peek at the current Bounty Hunter catalog, click here and here. Often referred to as the local clubhouse or winemaker watering hole, the restaurant is a happy hour favorite for wine industry alums, in large part because it has one of the largest by-the-glass wine selections around. The half sour pickles and pulled pork sandwiches aren't a bad draw either. And the ribs? Well, that's their claim to fame.

Cheers and happy grilling,


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