August 13, 2020
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Zinfandel pairs with BBQ Macaroni & Cheese Burgers

By: Jeff James
July 19, 2019

I like every component of this month’s burger recipe. First, I love a good juicy burger hot off the grill, and I love sausage and this burger has sausage mixed into it. I love macaroni and cheese and I love cheeseburgers and this burger uses macaroni and cheese to become a “cheese”burger. I love the smoky tang of barbeque sauce and this burger upgrades from regular old ketchup to tasty barbeque sauce. Now, when you combine all of that scrumptiousness with the depth and deliciousness of a high-quality Zinfandel, you’ve got a winning combination!

Zinfandel has often been referred to as “California’s Winegrape” and we are very fortunate to live in the part of California where much of the state’s very best Zinfandel grapes are grown. The weather conditions in parts of our county are ideal for letting Zinfandel grapes get perfectly ripe while developing lovely layers of complex flavors and structure. Locally, look for wines made with Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley or Sonoma Valley grapes. Slightly further away you can find very nice Zins made with Napa Valley, Mendocino County, Lake County, the Sierra Foothills and certain San Joaquin Delta grapes. The key to quality is growing the grapes in an environment with enough heat to get them ripe, but with enough moderation to that heat (think elevation, fog and wind) so that the ripening happens gradually over the season rather than in a quick burst.

The red and black fruit flavors typically found in high-quality Zinfandel will meld nicely with the ground beef and sausage in this month’s recipe, while the moderate acidity will cut through the fattiness of the meats without clashing with the barbeque sauce. The typically moderate tannins in the wine will create a nice frame for the macaroni and cheese and the bun while the overall heft and depth of the burger will not be overshadowed by the moderate to high alcohol often found in Zins. Here’s another idea that will enhance the pairing… use a rustic sourdough for your buns, and grill just one side of each slice so that it will be soft and chewy on the outside and crunchy and smoky on the inside.

Barbeque and Zinfandel is a classic combination and these ramped-up burgers, when matched with a world-class Sonoma County Zin will leave you stuffed, and happy and pulling up your calendars to see when you can do it again. Cheers!

Jeff James is the founder and co-owner, with his wife Judy, of Stony Point Vineyard and James Family Cellars. Their Cotati vineyard and winery have consistently produced award-winning wines. Jeff can be reached at or 707-548-2294. Visit their website at