Tasting Goes With: Beef

Goes with beefGot my first sample for review the other day, from Fred Schwartz in sunny California. Fred’s company Riddling Bros. has this unreleased wine, really a wine brand concept, called Goes With Cellars, which is one of those food pairing-focused wines like the Wine That Loves brand that came out earlier this year. I thought it was rather funny of Fred to send me this wine to sample, as I had already kinda-sorta gone on record as thinking the Wine That Loves concept was weird in a comment at Good Wine Under $20, when Dr. Debs posted on it.

Whereas the “Wine That Loves” brand focuses on pairing wine with more everyday fare (pasta with tomato sauce, pizza, grilled steak, etc), the “Goes With” line includes a shopping list and an upscale recipe that one presumes will be a perfect pairing with the wine in the bottle. My husband’s take on the concept was, “Oh yeah. Back when I was single, I would totally have bought that to make dinner for a date. That’s a Get Laid Wine.” Aha! Market positioning insight!

Jeff at Good Grape was also a part of Fred’s little marketing campaign, which included sending us little graphics of well paired icons, like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, along with a tag that said “Matched Perfectly.” The Wine Broad got a sample, too: she thought the whole “Wine That Loves” brand was a crock, so you can imagine her opinion of this seeming re-brand attempt.

I go back and forth on the issue that the Broad and others take umbrage with: the dumbing down of wine, specifically wine and food pairing. To those of us who feel confident in our wine knowledge, wine and food pairing is an enjoyable sport. It’s fun to talk about to other wine/food geeks, safe because it’s even more subjective than whether a wine is good or not (if anything can be more subjective than that), and so riddled with variables that you can’t possibly ever get bored.

But even as I would be bewildered and horrified at the thought of a quick nine holes at a Hilton Head golf course, I can see how the complicated world of wine would be even more terrifying were it backlit against the palette of the world of fine food. Shit, it’s hard enough to cook a decent meal, but to put a good wine with it and have it “match” (whatever that means, right?), that’s just some kind of bizarre torture.

RecipeBut the Wine Broad’s post got me to thinking about the recipe on the bottle; heaven forbid that it doesn’t pair well! There was only one way to find out, so my beloved and I had Peppercorn Steak that evening, accompanied by roast cauliflower and cheese sauce, a baked potato, and the wine it Goes With.

Pan sauce ingredientsI’m not a recipe following type of person, but I made a real effort to follow the recipe on the label. Beef tenderloin was just ridiculously expensive at my grocery store this week, though, so I went with two strip steaks instead. Otherwise, I made no changes — I even bought brandy for the pan sauce! I figured that the spicy steak needed a mild foil on the plate, hence the cheesy veg (which my husband calls Cauliflower With Sex On It) and the tater. Yes, I used the leftover wine from last Wine Blogging Wednesday, too. There was just enough left for the sauce and a glass for Chef.

In the letter Fred sent me along with the wine sample, he specifically instructs me to NOT “taste this wine. Don’t swirl it, sniff it… or roll it around in your mouth. This wine is from drinking, not tasting.” Dutifully, I did not taste the wine before I had sat down to the table. Of course, I tasted it independently after the meal, what kind of wine blogger does he take me for? but I drank my glass-point-five with my dinner, as instructed.

the wholeWhat I found was that the wine did indeed pair quite nicely with my meal, which was delicious. The nose was very fruity and soft, and the sweet fruitiness cooled out the heat of the peppercorns on my tongue very efficiently and pleasantly. The pan sauce was tangy with mustard and Worcestershire, and it rounded out the tannin on the wine just fine, as did the cheesy cauliflower. Maybe two recipes on the bottle, Fred?

In the glass, the wine was a rich, clear red. Tasted alone, I got jammy blackberry and vanilla on the nose, with maybe just a whiff of pine. A small whiff; this wine is really all fruit on the nose. Fruity-bo-booty-patootie. Palate-wise: plum, black currant and one or two pencil shavings, with a medium-strength tannic grip and not much of a finish.

Quaffable, simple, unflawed wine, although I must say I’ve never had a Bordeaux like it; tasted like Cali or at least vin du pays to me. Regardless, this was not a great wine that will age or blow anyone’s mind, but it was a nice, light, drinkable red that did indeed “go with” the meal it was evidently intended for.

I must agree with the Broad about being unable to accurately assess this wine without a price point from which to judge: I would be very disappointed with this wine at $20. In fact, I would never buy it for that — if you’re going to dumb down my wine, you need to make it inexpensive at the very least. I would be quite pleased with this wine at $10; at $12-15 I’d want a coupon for a discount on my steak.

Shopping ListHowever, in my husband’s proposed scenario of a single guy preparing a meal for his all-important Third Date At His Place, I can see our swain being fine with $15 on the wine. The shopping list is not long, which is smart and convenient. The consumer can peek at the recipe to see if he has all the skills to execute it, another plus for our hero. It’s quick to throw together, again helpful for anyone hosting a nubile dinner guest. All in all, this could be a very effective Get Laid Wine. Goes With…?

The complete departure from the parameters that most wine consumers use to choose a wine is a huge risk, and I can see some problems with it, dumbing-down issues aside. Some of the issues that came up on the comments at Good Grape rang true for me, as well. Jill‘s question is a great one: how much Goes With Veal do you expect to sell, really?

And I agree with Jeff of Twisted Oak that 7 menus is totally not enough. How often do you expect me to make that Peppercorn Steak, Pasta with Pancetta and Mushrooms, or even the Pork Chili Verde? Do you offer multiple recipes in a case, and do you switch them up every 3 months? Or every year? And if you cut people loose from the recipe on the bottle, what are they to do with just meat-based recommendations? Just because a wine goes with steak au poivre doesn’t mean it’ll go with pot roast.

My strongest doubt, though, is whether I would buy a wine which gave little information as to its grape or region, but rather just assured me that it paired well with a certain dish. Would you?

0 comments

  1. I know there are wine chemists, and this post made the inner R&D scientist scream at me to get into the business.

    Fun story: I was making a protein stability formulation a few years ago, and after about 3 months it would STINK. So, I got a whole bunch of additive scents to play with. A PhD who was many years at the de-stinkifying business showed me how to plot the molecules so that I wouldn’t choose a fragrance to just cover up the spoiled stench, but would actually help to cancel it out. It was so awesome when it worked! I was just as pleased as punch when I opened my stink-o bottle after 6 months, and I barely smelled the yuck.

    Kind of gross, I guess, but really makes me appreciate this entry on a whole different level.

  2. I don’t think I could ever bring myself to serve a wine to friends named “Goes with: Beef.” No matter how good or bad the wine is, the label just screams of gimmick. And please– goes with beef? How hard is it to go into a wine store and find wines that will go well with beef? Nice post, though– I’m glad you were brave enough to try it.

  3. The recipe looks great but I ‘d have a hard time bringing a bottle called it goes with beef unless it was a bachlorette party, just for the gag. And gimmicky wine is 15 bucks max… I know we all want to make wine accessible to everyone but this feels a little too dumbed down. How about “taste this it goes with what you think” or just “Drink Me” or for the guys: “the Third Date” per your suggestion

  4. Grumpy, thanks for the comment – how interesting! You should totally look into wine chemistry; I’m sure the burgeoning Texas wine industry could use you. Plus it beats the chemistry work you’re doing now by a long shot. 😉

    Eddie, Dr. Debs and Amy, you all made me laugh out loud, as it were, with your comments; I hope Fred realizes how AWESOME this wine would be for bachelorette parties! But if he tries to pair a wine with Getting Laid, I want royalties.

    I’m off to scour my local wine store for a wine that goes with beef. Wish me luck!

    For the record, the recipe was very good and the steak was quite delicious. I’ve been enjoying the leftovers immensely.

  5. The marketer in me absolutely loves this idea. I mean, MUST every wine be one that we have to swirl and sniff and disect ad naseum? I’ll be honest, living out here in wine country, I sometimes get tired of that and just want to DRINK a damn glass of wine with my meal without THINKING about it. So cheers to the Goes With concept. And cheers to you for being honest that it did, indeed, go with the recipe.

    I have a funny story too . . . I wrote the copy on the bottle of that Spectrum Organics oil you have on your counter. 😉

  6. At least the “Goes With…” wines tell you what grapes are in the bottle. I didn’t the “Wine that Loves…” wines did, and that was annoying. Cute concept, but I don’t think I could buy it. Except maybe as joke. One of my friends is a la-di-da chef and I could totally see myself bringing him a bottle of this!

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