Great Wine Buys: Gnarly Head, Noble Vines


Have you ever taken a bite of food, then a sip of wine and the combination of the two elevated the entire experience? I call those “perfect culinary moments,” when your senses are heightened by the merging of tastes, smells and textures. 

We all need more perfect culinary moments.

To that end, this is the first in a Friday series that explores combinations of food and drink. I am eager to see what new drink products are on the market, whether wine, beer or spirits. I’m also always eager to pair drinks with food, so I will give you recipes when they enhance those products. My goal with wine is to introduce you to some wine varietals you may not have tried, as well as some gift ideas for the upcoming holidays. The best wine news is that good wine doesn’t have to be expensive.

Kicking it off are my reviews of Gnarly Head’s Old Vine Zin and Noble Vines 667 Pinot Noir. Plus a recipe for the best homemade sloppy joes. Comfort food and good wine – perfect for a Friday night!

Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin 2018 – I’ve been a fan of Gnarly Head wines for years, but hadn’t tasted one in a while. I’ve missed it. In the glass, this zinfandel looks as if you’re looking through a layer of cherry pie. It’s bright purple and smells big and chewy and fruity. It’s a versatile wine, good for sipping, but excellent with food: meat, red sauce, pizza, chocolate. Big cherry fruits are the overall taste here, jammy and bold. This is my favorite varietal for sloppy joes or burgers. Cost: between $8-$12. (list:$14.99) 

Noble Vines 667, 2018 Pinot Noir – From vines that were called “Dijon clones” (the area in France, not the mustard), brought to California from the Cote d’Or in Burgundy, this is a lighter wine than the zinfandel. On the nose, it smells like a ripe cherry lifesaver, and tastes light, smooth and a bit delicate. It’s OK for sipping, but I liked it better with food: salmon (my favorite pairing!), a cheesy pasta, vegetables and turkey. Pinot noir is a sure bet for a holiday table gift, so stock that away right now. Cost: between $8-$12. (list:$14.99)


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • ½ cup barbecue sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar*
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ cup red wine or water
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper or hot sauce (optional)

Brown the ground beef and drain off fat.

Add everything else except red wine/water, then add enough of either of those to keep mixture slightly moist, to taste. Let everything mingle over medium heat for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Spoon onto buns. Pour some zinfandel, and enjoy.

**Editor’s note: I’ve found I can omit the brown sugar, since both ketchup and BBQ sauce usually contain plenty of that. 

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