A burger is at its best with a sassy wine, one that’s tangy and bright enough to cut through the rich protein in a beef patty. We’ve scouted for the best burger reds to set you up for the holiday.
We found plenty 5 tasty options (see list below) – our top burger pick is the Cline 2014 Contra Costa County Ancient Vines Mourvedre at $22. This Rhone red’s concentrated cherry flavors and high-toned note of cranberry make it a great match for burgers. Subtle flavors of plum, toast and chocolate are also at play, giving the wine layered appeal. It’s balanced, with good acidity and has nice length, scoring 4 stars with the burger, and 3.5 stars solo.
Winemaker Charlie Tsegeletos said he is intent on crafting a certain house style by relying on old vines that date back to the early 1900s.
“Our mourvedre is big in body, with lots of cherry flavor, nicely oaked but not overwhelming,” he said.
Tsegeletos is the director of winemaking for Sonoma’s Cline Family Cellars and Jacuzzi Family Vineyards. He said what makes him a great fit to make this wine is that he fancies the beverage.
“I like to drink wine, and I pay attention to what it is that I like in wines specifically,” he said. “I have a mental check list of 12 different tastes and aromas that need to be in balance to make good wine. Fruit, acid, sugar and oak are four of them.”
The winemaker said he isn’t swayed by pricey wines, but rather by well-crafted wines.
“I don’t do ‘wine snob’ very well. The wine might have a great lineage, but if it isn’t good, I’d rather drink a well-made $15 bottle,” said Tsegeletos, 59.
He has a Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture science and management from UC Davis and said he was drawn to winemaking after tasting a glass of Charles Krug Reserve Cabernet, vintage 1974.
“It turned my head as to how good a wine could taste, and it made me think, ‘I really like this stuff!’ ”
Tsegeletos said winemaking also appealed to him because he likes working on mechanical things. Of course, at the end of the day, Tsegeletos gets the most gratification from pouring a glass for someone who has never tasted mourvedre before.
For the uninitiated, the exotic red was originally a Spanish varietal and made its way to America in the 1900s.
“They might not know how to pronounce it and they might not remember it, but when they taste it, they love it,” he said.
THIS WEEK’S BLIND TASTING: Burger Reds
Cline, 2014 Contra Costa County Ancient Vines Mourvedre, 15% alcohol, $22. (★★★1/2 solo, ★★★★ with burger)
This is knockout with a burger, thanks to this Rhone red’s concentrated cherry flavors and high-toned note of cranberry. It cuts through the rich protein. Subtle flavors of plum, toast and chocolate are also at play, giving the wine layered appeal. Balanced, with good acidity. Nice length. A smart burger pick.
4 Tasty Alternatives
Hart’s Desire, 2014 Russian River Valley Grenache, 14.4%, $30. (★★★1/2 solo, ★★★1/2 with burger): A tasty burger pick due to this wine’s tangy red fruit. Aromas and flavors of strawberry, plum and pomegranate. Lingering finish.
Mathis, 2012 Sonoma Valley Grenache, 14.6%, $27. (★★★ solo, ★★★ with burger): This grenache, weighted to blackberry and plum, is a tasty wine solo, but itf falls short with the burger. The wine includes a hint of strawberry, black cherry and black pepper spice.
Joel Gott, 2014 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir, 13.6%, $21. (★★★1/2 solo, ★★★1/2 with burger): This is a good burger match, and also is tasty solo. A soft pinot, with notes of cherry and smoke. Bright acidity. Balanced.
Stephen Vincent, 2013 Sonoma County Pinot Noir, 13.5%, $15. (★★★1/2 solo, ★★★1/2 with burger): This is a tasty quaffer by itself, and equally appealing with a burger, with. This pinot has notes of cherry, blackberry, toast and pepper. Medium bodied. A smart value.