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Inspired by Notes of Asian Spices: Braised Spareribs + Brown Estate Zinfandel 2021 #WinePW


This month the Wine Pairing Weekend writers are looking at Zinfandel and sharing their pairings. Martin of ENOFYLZ Wine Blog is hosting and shared this invitation. Read about how it's 'America's Grape', that the third Wednesday of this month is National Zinfandel Day, and get to know its other names around the world. Primitivo, anyone?

We actually won't be holding a Twitter chat this month, so you'll have to visit the articles themselves to learn more about our explorations. Here's the line-up...

Brown Estate Zinfandel 2021

I already mentioned that Zinfandel is the same grape as Primitivo in Italy. For the November 2020 #ItalianFWT, I shared Pasta Fra Diavolo Topped with Stuffed Squid + Li Veli Orion Primitivo 2018. And earlier last year, I shared a local-to-me Zinfandel paired with Crab-Stuffed Ravioli.

For this month's exploration, I had tucked away a bottle of Zinfandel with Cal links. Take a look at this post - Celebrating #MerlotME with Mushrooms, Truffles, and a Wine from a Cal Alumna - to see how I became acquainted with UC Berkeley's Graduate Wine Collective. It turned out that a winery with which I was already familiar has deep Cal ties.  I know I have paired their Chaos Theory before, but I guess I never wrote it up. Drat. I will have to fix that soon.

Brown Estate is Napa Valley's first Black-owned estate winery. In 1980 the Brown family purchased the ranch, planted grapes, and began growing fruit for other vintners. In 1995, the Brown children began making their own wine. And here's the Berkeley connection: Siblings Coral and C. Deneen Brown are class of '89 and '90 respectively; Stefanie Kelly, class of '97, is their general manager.

1996 was their first bottling of Brown Zin. This vintage is number 26 after a year hiatus due to the 2020 wildfires. This one - a medium-bodied wine with a velvety mouthfeel and lingering finish - is definitely worth the wait...and worth the almost $50 pricetag! This Zinfandel pours a deep garnet hue with a ruby rim. On the nose, I jotted down heady spices of cloves, ginger, all-spice along with florals of rose petals and dried hibiscus blossoms. On the palate, the wine starts with lots of red fruits and opens up to reveal aromatic laurel leaves and more Asian spices.

Braised Spareribs

I was going to go all-American with a burger or barbeque with my Zinfandel. But when I started, I was intrigued by its complementary with Asian spices. I initially thought I was going to pair the wine with Galbi Jjim, Korean braised short ribs, but the meat market was woefully bereft of short ribs. They did, however, have spareribs. So, I used spareribs in a Galbi Jjim preparation.

I picked up a rack of spare ribs and had the butcher slice them horizontally to about 2" lengths.

  • 1½ to 2 pounds lean spareribs, cut into roughly 1½ to 2" long pieces
  • 1-inch knob fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 4 to 6 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
  • 2 Tablespoons oil
  • 1 organic onion, peeled and thickly sliced
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ½ cup mirin
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 2 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 cups peeled daikon radish, sliced into half moons
  • 2 cups diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup peeled chestnuts
  • Also needed: steamed rice and a variety of Korean banchan for serving

Place the ribs in a large mixing bowl and massage in the ginger and garlic. In a Dutch oven, heat the oil and add in the ribs. Cook to brown on all sides, approximately 5 minutes. Add in the onions and pour in the soy sauce, mirin, apple cider and sesame oil.

Bring to a boil. There should be enough liquid to cover the spareribs. Turn the heat down to a simmer. Cover and let braise for an hour.

After an hour, fold in the radishes, carrots, celery, and chestnuts. Cover and let braise for another hour.

Turn the spareribs and veggies to coat in the thickened sauce. 

To serve, spoon ribs into a bowl with steamed rice.

Offer a variety of Korean veggie side dishes on the side. I served a seaweed salad, kimchi, pickled carrots and radishes, spiced bean sprouts, and steamed spinach.

This was a fantastic pairing...and a wrap on my November #WinePW offering. The group will be back next month with a face off between Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Stay tuned!


  1. I love this pairing Cam! I used to taste the Brown Estate Zinfandel and Chaos Theory wine when I attended ZAP's annual Zinfandel Festival. Both are winners in my book! Cheers!

  2. I was intrigued by this winery when you showcased it last month. Love the pairing choice. I'll bet the spices of each were very complementary.

  3. I can absolutely imagine the flavors in this wine pairing beautifully with Asian flavors! And this seems so cosy! And how fun to taste wines from other alums of your Alma Mater.


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