Vineyard Gate customers asked me what wines would pair with buffalo wings. As the answer did not roll off my tongue, I posted the question to the fans on our facebook fan page, and suggestions like Zinfandel and Champagne were made. Indeed, Zin is a quintessential American wine (yes, I know it actually originates from Croatia, and is a genetic equivalent of the Italian primitivo grape) - big, fruity, sweet (to my palate), alcoholic, obvious - a great match for American palate and American food in general - burgers and bbq ribs, so why not buffalo wings?! As for Champagne, I wasn't so sure, but after the experience described below, I do now see the wisdom of pairing wings with an off-dry sparkling wine.
Armed with those suggestions, I went a step further. I had a couple of unfinished bottles of fruity, sweetish, alcoholic California Pinot from the Vineyard Gate tasting last night, and this being a Sunday, it occurred to me - why not get some wings and put the Pinot to good use while watching another inspiring match by the San Francisco 49ers. I got two kinds of wings - bbq and spicy. After all, I thought, the substantial weight and alcohol of the Pinot would be a good match for both types of the heavily coated wings. The sweetness in the wine should have been a good match to both the sweetness of the bbq sauce and the heat of the spicy sauce. And I thought the fruitiness of the Pinot would be a tasty complement to the chicken.
Well, this turned out to be one of those times when the theory seems so sound, but the reality begs to differ. Just as the 49ers ruined all expectations by playing the worst game of the season against the Atlanta Falcons (losing 45 to 10), so did the Pinot - it was too thick and chocolaty for the wings, which clearly needed something more refreshing. I grabbed a diet Coke. Oh, that was good! - the lively carbonation and acidity stood up perfectly to the wings and the sugar matched the bbq and the spice just as I'd hoped the Pinot would. And so a day of failed expectations provided a couple of valuable lessons. In the meantime, both the alcoholic California Pinots and the sweet and spicy bbq wings continue to look for their perfect matches.