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Food & Drink Blog

Perfect Pair: Burgers & Bucklin

by Ted Scheffler
- Posted // 2010-12-22 -

Meeting a friend for some lunchtime holiday cheer at the Copper Onion, he showed up with not one, but two very good bottles of wine. We'd previously discussed various burger-friendly wines, settled on Zinfandel, and were in hot pursuit of a perfect pairing. We found it: The Copper Onion burger and Bucklin Old Hill Ranch Zinfandel -- it doesn't get a lot better than this.

And, burgers don't get a lot better than the Copper Onion's. This is a superb burger, made with high-quality beef, cooked medium-rare, juicy, served on a bun baked in-house, and topped with homemade pickles. The pickles, too, are perfect: an ideal balance between sweet and sour, with a beautiful crunchy snap! Even if you don't have a burger, I encourage you to order the Copper Onion's "pot of pickles" ($3) to snack on (although, I don't recommend drinking wine with the pickles...).

We opened the two wines -- Bucklin Old Hill Ranch Zinfandel 2007 ($24.99) and Ravenswood Old Hill Zinfandel 2007 ($59.99). The reason these two wines were selected -- aside from being likely candidates for good pairings with burgers -- is that the two wines are made from the same grapes. It's rare to be able to taste two different expressions of wines made with grapes from the very same vineyard and same vintage.


Winemaker Will Bucklin (see my article about Bucklin here) makes his own wines from grapes grown at his Old Hill Ranch in Sonoma Valley, near Glen Ellen -- from some of the oldest vines in California. He also sells some of his grapes to Ravenswood, well-known for their excellent Zinfandel wines. So, the fruit in both bottles we opened at the Copper Onion were the same, picked at the same time, from the same vineyard; the difference was in how that fruit was ultimately treated by the winemakers.

Taking a sniff of each wine, the Bucklin seemed much fruitier on the nose to me -- the Ravenswood more closed. On the tongue, I had the same sensation: luscious fruit flavors from Bucklin .... not as much with the Ravenswood. And, the textures were different, too. The Bucklin Zin was silky and smooth, velvety even, going right smack down the center of the tongue. The Ravenswood Zin had a ring-around-the-tongue astringency, and made me pucker. Throughout a lengthy, two-hour lunch, the two wines continued to both emerge and diverge, with Bucklin getting better and better; the Ravenswood, not so much, becoming more intense the more it was exposed to air -- a little toointense for me.

The main difference between the two wines, I think -- without getting into a lot of technical minutiae -- lies in the use of oak by the respective winemakers. Will Bucklin barrel ages his Zinfandel for 20 months in 40% new French Saury oak. Ravenswood winemaker Joel Peterson, by contrast, ages his Old Hill Zin for 20 months in 34% new oak and 30% year-old oak. That's a significant difference in the amount of oak! It's an example of not leaving well enough alone and needlessly interfering with great grapes, I believe.

The Bucklin fruit is so lush from the outset -- great wines are made in the vineyard, not in the lab -- that too much oak is overkill. Don't get me wrong: both of the wines are very good. But side-by-side, I felt like Bucklin, priced some 35 bucks below the Ravenwood, blew it away. On the other hand, Ravenswood wines get raves from wine writers and the public. So perhaps I'm just more inclined towards the more elegant, even feminine, style of Bucklin versus Ravenswood.

As great as the burger at the Copper Onion is on its own, it reaches stratospheric heights when paired with Bucklin Old Hill Ranch Zinfandel. But, don't take my word for it. Take this pairing out for a spin yourself and let me know what you think.

Holiday cheers!

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Post a comment
Posted // December 23,2010 at 11:22

Whew! I need a bottle of something to get through these comments! Great stuff, though. Thanks for playing.


Posted // December 23,2010 at 08:38

Wow! And to think this much mental agitation went into arguing about a bottle of wine!

The reason they make chocolate AND vanilla ice cream is because humans taste things differently and preferences are born. I f*cking hate pineapple on a pizza, for instance. I won't change my mind if someone develops an aged pineapple pizza using the best strains of pineapple plants grown under ideal conditions on a 100-year old plantation in Hawaii, where the pineapples are hung up in a humidity-controlled warehouse and someone comes in and serenades them with Hawaiian tribal ukelele music every day for 10 years.

An allergy, a deviated septum, an injury, a hormonal imbalance, prescription and recreational drug use and abuse can all affect your taste buds and tasting epxerience.

From my wine and roses days, I can attest that dog shit on an old wooden shingle would taste great after two bottles of wine.


Posted // December 23,2010 at 11:23 - I consider pineapple on pizza to be inhumane, akin to waterboarding.


Posted // December 23,2010 at 10:02 - Black Mamba that is awesomely funny! And good info! Thanks for the levity


Posted // December 23,2010 at 02:11

No actually, wine oxidizing on the counter top reveals much about a wines ageability. You are quite wrong on this because the components that make red wines ageable/long lived are acidity and proper extract. These are also, not coincidentally, the items in the wine which resist oxidation. The two are related. All of my Bucklin releases are aging magnficently while my Ravenswoods aren't. Its important to know that oak tannin and grape tannins are substantially different and react differently to aging and affect the palate differently. I've got twenty plus years of experience with wine too. I agree with Ted, different styles, but the teachable moment here is that the fruit is identical; same vineyard same vintage and very close in alcohol. More importantly, Ted is right about the fact that great wines are made in the vineyard, not the barrel. Joel Peterson is a great winemaker, no argument, I just agree that Will has trumped him with this release especially (and at less than half the price!)


Posted // December 23,2010 at 07:20 - Do pull exact quotes from above with quote marks around it showing where I wrote that Buncklin wines won't age, and/or won't get better with age. I'd put in exact quotes about your experience with old Ravenswood's, but I can't find them, so you'll have to show the exact quotes of where you said you'd had old ones that didn't age. I also said I have 20 years with Ravenswood, not wine in general.


Posted // December 23,2010 at 07:14 - Stop teaching long enough to read and comprehend. I never said the Bucklin wouldn't age, just it was made in an upfront style. saying a wine is made in an upfront style does not mean it won't age. Teach me were that statement is wrong. I said that Revenswood wines are not made in an upfront style. Ted's description of the strong oak shows he agrees. So would Joel. We've talked about that on at common events we've attended. Apparently can't claim to have drunk many old Ravenswoods or you would have said so. You only claim to have drunk wine a long time. You cannot "teach me" that my experience of drinking 40-50 Ravenswood wines over 10 years old, and in every case, it was better than on release. I've had old ones with both the other "R's" of Zin and they agree to. If you've had significant experience of deciding ageability from letting a wine sit on the counter top and then tasting the same wine 10-20-30 years later and correlating the experience, more power to you. There's been many discussions about this on the major wine boards and they can't agree on it. That you can share and teach, but Ravenswood's ageability and if a wine tasted good on release aren't two of them. Thanks for the spitited discussion. I'm done, although I will read any last response you may have.


Posted // December 22,2010 at 20:30

Calling Bucklin an early drinking style is a rank mischaracterization. I'll bet money and bottles the Bucklin has a longer life. I've had the two on my countertop and the Ravenswood disintegrates after 3 days while the Bucklin remains sound.


Posted // December 22,2010 at 20:37 - Bucklin has just barely produced for 10 year. I've got lot's of bottle of old Ravenswood in the wine cellar and been drinking them for over 20 years. Trying to figure out age worthiness from how fast a wine oxidizes on your counter top is a crap shoot. Dozens of bottle and 20 years experience with Ravenswood trumps your experiment. That's not to say Bucklin won't last, but you just have to read Ted's note and taste a bottle to know it's made in an upfront style.


Posted // December 22,2010 at 17:43

The problem with the Ravenswood is that you drank it 5-10 years too early. Bucklin has always gone for the early drinking style. Joel has always been very old school. The better Ravenswood Zins come into their own about 10 years from vintage date. They are like the Caymus Cabs -- All oak early on. However it all integrates after a few years.