Monticello on a gorgeous, February day

Over President’s Day weekend, Laura Beth and I went to Charlottesville to visit wineries, UVA, and Monticello. It was quite a wonderful weekend, with temperatures I the 60s and perfectly sunny. You couldn’t have asked for a better weekend, especially in February!

One night, we wanted to have a fancy schmancy dinner, and we decided to go to The Downtown Grille in downtown Charlottesville. This is a place with white tablecloths, a huge wine list, and prices that would ordinarily make my mouth drop to the floor. However, we were celebrating our birthdays way far in advance (she’s in April, I’m in July), but due to our crazy schedules, we knew this was the one time we could celebrate together.

The menu consisted of mostly steaks, meats, and seafood (hence, a grille!). I wasn’t quite in the mood for beef, but I saw a ginger snap pork tenderloin with blueberry sauce and sweet potatoes, and my mind was made up. I hadn’t had good pork tenderloin in a while, so I was excited!

With a blueberry sauce, my mind instantly went to a Zinfandel pairing. Like I have said in previous posts, when wine pairing, it is important to see how a dish is prepared. Zinfandel from California often has fruit forward berry jam-like flavors, oak (like vanilla or mocha), along with some spices such as Asian Five Spice and cinnamon. It is fuller bodied and has a nice, long finish. It can be tricky to pair, because it is very fruit forward, which has the potential to overpower a food. However, if you pair it with a dish that already has similar flavors, you don’t need to worry as much about Zinfandel’s strength. Zinfandel can basically go with any All-American dish because most All-American dishes have similar components. Pork and steaks/burgers are juicy and go well with juicy/jammy wines. Barbecue would be lost without a good, fruit forward Zinfandel, especially because there are lots of fruits in barbecue sauces (ketchup, apple cider vinegar, etc…). Even fried chicken would go well!

Not the best lighting, but the color on the Zin is a deep purple.

The jam and spice flavors of Zinfandel made me think that it would go perfectly with a pork tenderloin that had both blueberry and ginger. Most Grilles have a Zinfandel by the glass, and they are most always from California due to their pairing ability. I ordered the one and only on the list, Plungerhead from the Lodi Valley of California. On the nose and palate, I got a ton of vanilla, black and blueberry jam, and something floral. It was devine! If I didn’t have food coming and it wasn’t so warm outside, I could warm up with this baby by the fire, snuggling with the hubby on the couch.

I tried to take a picture of the pork once it was cut open, thinking it would be more photogenic…

The pork was also delicious. It was not soaked in the blueberry sauce, but had just enough to get a bit in every forkful. The pork was cooked medium, with a touch of pink that helped the juices ooze out when you cut into it. Both the wine and the meal were delicious on their own, but they were so much better together! The wine enhanced the juicy, pork flavors and made the gingersnap pop like a firework! The blueberry sauce was in no way sweetened from the wine, but rather made it more complex and deep. The creaminess of the sweet potatoes stood out, which for some would be a turn on, but for me, made it seem more buttery than sweet potatoey (if that’s a word…). Minus the sweet potatoes, this was a fabulous pairing. Laura Beth was telling me something when I took my first bite, and I remember stopping her just to take in all of the flavors. It was so good!

So what are the take aways from this restaurant pairing?

#1- Zinfandel is a great wine to pair with All-American classics (burgers, steaks, meat, barbecue, pork), especially if there are similar fruit or spice flavors in the dish. However, be careful with Zin, as it has the potential to overpower a food.

#2: Want a fancy, schmancy dinner in Charlottesville? The Downtown Grille is just the ticket!

Questions for the audience:

  1. What foods do you consider All-American?
  2. Next time I go to Charlottesville, what restaurants should I visit next?

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