By Rick Riozza
It wasn’t that long ago when the wine world found a comfortable divide between themselves and spicy cuisine. It was always a nice cold beer that we enjoyed with the hot and fiery food of Mexico, the Caribbean, and countries of Southeast Asia. Indeed, restaurants featuring such a menu rarely had a bottle or glass of wine on their beverage list.
But continuing with our tradition of all things new in this column—baby, it’s a brave new wine world out there! And every day, someone is discovering a versatile white, rosé, or red wine that is just knocking it back with the piquant preparations of foodie perfections (as when matching an Italian Moscato with scorching delights of Thai dishes).
So with the wine bin door wide open, and the kitchen artists unable to contain themselves, let us talk about some of the fun stuff that has recently come out of La Fundidora: you got it!—wine-infused salsa! Olé! But don’t be scared—everybody loves a tasty collaboration, even if it does come out of left field, and even if it’s made with the rough and tumble Zinfandel, straight out of the old west.
Proudly, I was the first one on my block to get my Mexican hit going trying out the recently released limited edition of Ravenswood Salsa Borracha (literally “drunk salsa”) and Ravenswood Salsa Macha (“brave man salsa”) from the Brooklyn based kitchens of La Fundadora, makers of artisanal small batched salsas. These two new “boozy concoctions” are versions of their signature salsas.
Let’s first consider the wine. Last year in these pages, we interviewed the Godfather of Zinfandel, Joel Peterson. Joel was and is the Founder and Winemaker of Ravenswood Winery since 1976 where in that first year he produced around 327 cases of Zinfandel. In 2001, two years after going public, Ravenswood was bought by Constellation Brands for million$! We’re always hearing about multimillionaires becoming winemakers—but, this is an even better story where a winemaker became a multimillionaire!
Fortunately, for us Zinners, Peterson remained with the winery. Thus Ravenswood is one of the few wineries that have had the philosophical and winemaking skill of one winemaker for almost 40 years, contributing to a consistency and quality rarely found in California.
Ravenswood produces many lines of Zinfandel, from specific-designation single-vineyard elegance to blends that encompass the great array of zin’s flavor profiles that include blackberries, black cherries, black pepper, plums, raspberries, jam, spices, and herbs.
The wine-infused creations came about when Joel Peterson approached Vitali Meschoulam, who runs La Fundadora with his wife Lorena, and invited them to consider and concoct a wine-soaked recipe salsa made with his wine. Born and raised in Mexico City where they learned to appreciate and cook with the traditional Mexican ingredients, the Meschoulams came to New York City for jobs in finance, but continued making salsa as a hobby. Their passion went full-time in 2012 and released their first batch in 2013.
Lorena says, “In Mexico, salsa is used as condiments and it’s something present at every meal. So everyone is an expert and believes they have the best salsa in town. And it’s true—because of the different personalities they add to it.”
La Fundadora took the Ravenswood wine project on with this idea to show people it can be used for different foods and complex recipes. The result: delicious salsas that are so authentic, they’re neither tomato-based nor intended to be eaten with tortilla chips.
The two wines Peterson offered were the Lodi and the Sonoma County Zin. His Lodi Zin is rich in ripe black fruit with a smoky layer of leather and cedar intertwined with some green grass and herbs, rich jammy fruit, black pepper and Asian spice: ideal for summer barbecue fare.
Ravenswood Sonoma County Zin is dense and powerful with a gutsy wallop of blackberry and black cherry, natural vanilla, and baking spice flavors. It’s elegantly layered with a succulent mouthfeel.
Reading through these notes readily explain the “why” these specific wines were decided on for the salsas.
The Ravenswood Borracha, pays a boozy homage to one of the oldest recipes ever recorded in Mexico with roasted ancho chile peppers and tomatoes. Thus the Borracha exhibits smoky flavors, a spicy profile and super fresh acidity from both the tomatoes and the wine. This modern version, however, features deeper tones with balanced spice to create a combination that adds just enough to heat enliven any dish. Try it on scrambled eggs, quesadillas, chicken tacos, or go the other way on the side of a roasted lamb, or, on a black-eyed peas and collard greens stew.
The Ravenswood Macha is based on the traditional Salsa Macha from Veracruz Mexico. But instead of using morita chiles as usual, the wine-infused salsa features guajillo chiles that really highlight the fruit in the Zinfandel. This is an eye-opener for big-time foodie readers. It’s a rich and savory blend of peppers, garlic, onion, olive oil, and the wine. It makes a fantastic addition to burgers, grilled steaks, a spread for grilled cheese and works great as an aromatic ingredient for shish kebab.
Add this Macha to rendered grilled pork rib drippings and a good dose of your favorite BBQ sauce—It’s the Bomb! No secret here—it goes great with Zinfandel! Buen Provecho! Addios Muchachos!
Until these tasty items arrive to our local markets, the best place to order is online at shop.ravenswoodwinery.com/Wines/Salsa.
Rick is our somm-about-town entertaining and conducting at wine events & tastings. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org