In late April, I made my second visit to the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute on Petit Jean Mountain in central Arkansas. Julia's friend Molly runs the restaurant at the Institute, and we picked a weekend to run up there again and enjoy a peaceful and relaxing vacation away from the city. This time we were lucky to include my longtime friend, brother from another mother, mister please please please himself, Paul Jones. I hadn't seen Paul in forever, and he was kind enough to bring his better half Anna along with him.
While it's not a bad drive from Memphis (4-5 hours depending on traffic and I-40 construction), the last leg is well off the beaten path, so it's good to pack a few coolers with all the essentials. And I brought many essentials. Three different kinds of vinegar, sixteen different kinds of bitters, a mixed case of a dozen wine samples, plus a ton of food. Paul was 90 minutes behind us with a ribeye roast and the ingredients necessary to make a proper Manhattan. These things are important.
Friday evening we had our dinner with a lot of Julia and Molly's friends at the River Rock Grill at the Institute. Loads of great dishes and conversations that night, but I'm going to dive into our lunch Saturday, when I decided to bring the Munchkin burger to Petit Jean Mountain.
I formed 2 oz. hockey pucks of ground beef, liberally seasoned with soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and in this instance, Penzey's Mitchell Street seasoning. Butter grilled slider buns, a healthy dollop of my famous red onion marmalade, a scoop of Cambozola, and a few other fixins paired with kettle chips and a homemade aïoli tinged with Sriracha sauce. I also did cheddar toppings for those that preferred a milder burger, and of course I opened a jar of garlic-dill gherkins that we've come to know as baybay pickles.
When I say I came prepared, I came prepared.
Friend of both Paul and me, the inimitable Dave R. passed along the following bottle that brought back a lot of good memories. I was a huge fan of the Bogle Petite Sirah in my early wine days and continue to admire the winery for the great bottles they produce.
2010 Bogle Essential Red
31% Zinfandel, 26% Petite Sirah, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Syrah
Lots of great fruit in this wine, with aromas of plum and bright red cherry and pie crust. Firm tannins show up on the finish, but overall it is a great jammy sipper that paired quite well with the lunch, and given the great price, this one has a great QPR and is highly recommended.
Earlier in the meal I opened up a pair of Paso Robles wines from Tower 15 Winery.
2012 Tower 15 Sauvignon Blanc
100% Sauvignon Blanc
$19, 13.2% abv.
Loads of bright acidity here, with flavors of lemon and apricot. Nice crisp finish. Should be served with shellfish and salad.
2012 Tower 15 Sunset Rosé
93% Grenache, 7% Pinot Noir
$19, 13.7% abv.
Great raspberry elements in this dry but crisp and tangy rosé. Light, onion-skin color, with a great tart finish. These two wines were perfect for appetizers of cheese and pickles, and the convenient screwcaps were even better, because I could just hand a bottle to someone and have him serve it without fumbling for a corkscrew. Highly recommended for the upcoming summer.
Burgers with red onion marmalade, even made in the petite form, do still require a hearty red wine, and I had a pair of Argentine bottles from Alamos Wines. These were great with the griddled Munchkin burgers...
2012 Alamos Red Blend
Proprietary blend of Malbec, Bonarda and Tempranillo
$13, 13.5% abv.
Brambly with those nutty elements of raspberry seeds, with good touches of earth and a slightly vegetal finish. This wine was well-received around the table.
2012 Alamos Malbec
Uco Valley, Argentina
$13, 13.7% abv.
I preferred this one, which was a solid bargain Malbec. Notes of plum and spice with medium tannins and a long finish. I've had this wine so many times over the years and still consider it a solid performer in its weight class.
Coming up soon... Dinner on the Mountain!
Note: These wines were received as samples.