March 5, 2021
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The Perfect Pairing

Jeff James
Wine pairing Ranch crusted burgers with avocado ranch sauce
January 22, 2021

This month’s recipe is rich and chewy and deep and soothing, if not particularly “low-cal.” In other words, just right for those who have already discarded their New Year’s resolutions, or those who are looking to celebrate their wisdom in not making resolutions which would preclude them from enjoying this decadent, toothsome treat. A great way to enhance the meal and celebrate one’s wisdom is to enjoy a nice glass of appropriately paired wine with the food. A great wine to match with this feast is a high-quality Syrah.

Syrah is a wine varietal which can exhibit a wide range of characteristics, depending on where the grapes are grown and how the wine is made. Syrah is an integral component of many of the famous blended red wines from the Rhone region in France and, thankfully, it is also produced as a single-grape varietal in many other parts of the world. While it is called Shiraz in Australia, and Syrah most everywhere else, this same grape produces a very food-friendly wine which can augment many different cuisines. We have some top-level versions being produced in California, and some of my favorites are from the cooler growing regions in the state, such as the Sonoma Coast, Carneros and the Central Coast. Syrah grown in warmer climates typically has less acidity and complexity and won’t generally pair with food as well.

The acidity that I just referred to will help navigate through the fattiness in the beef, mayonnaise, avocado, buttermilk and cheese. (As an aside, while the recipe calls for American cheese, I’m sure a nice sharp cheddar or pepper jack would go really well with this burger.) The herbal notes in a nice Syrah will meld nicely with the green onions and spices in the ranch seasoning and sauce, while the smokiness and bacon flavors found in the best Syrah will elevate the nice char on the burgers. The nice dark berry flavors of the wine are a great addition to the beefiness of the ground meat.

Given all that’s going on in the world, let’s allow for the occasional indulgent meal and let’s try to move those meals up on the enjoyment scale by enriching them with a great wine, which will make the food taste better and our moods a little brighter. Also, as I’ve done over the last several months, I’ll ask you to consider buying locally produced wines to help support our local growers and wineries. Between the pandemic and this year’s fires, all of us in the wine business can use some support, and I can only assume that you would enjoy brightening your mood a little bit with the delicious fruits of our labor, so please open a bottle of Sonoma County wine and raise a toast to better times ahead! 


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