Who doesn't love barbecued ribs? When that craving hits, there's nothing to do but give in to it, crawl through rush-hour traffic and stand patiently in line at Bludso's BBQ in Compton or Bigmista's Barbecue in Long Beach.
Object of desire: a massive slab of pork ribs suffused with smoke and char. So they wrap it up for you and you tuck the bag tenderly into the backseat of the car, careful not to spill any of the extra sauce. Riding home, the smell of those ribs calls up waves of hunger. You can't get back fast enough. Home at last, you slide the ribs out of the bag, lay them out on a platter, grab a stack of paper napkins and uncork a bottle of red — because not everybody pairs ribs with beer.
But what wine? It should be something big and burly, with some spice and heft to stand up to the smoke, the rich, fatty meat — and that sticky sweet hot sauce. This is a case for Zinfandel or a Zinfandel blend. How often do you get the chance to trot out a Zinfandel these days? A Mencia from Spain is a terrific match with some pork ribs too. Here are a few reds to enjoy with your slab of ribs.
2013 Bedrock Wine Co. Old Vine California Zinfandel (California)
When Bedrock's Morgan Twain-Peterson and Chris Cottrell say old vines, they mean old, averaging 80 years old from small vineyard sites scattered across Northern California. Some of the oldest come from Bedrock Vineyard, planted in 1888 — and that was for the second time. The wine is deep and complex, loaded with intense dark berry flavors plus a good dose of black pepper, spice and earth. Full-bodied is an understatement. A great match with meaty pork ribs and an outstanding buy at $25. Look for it at Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa, K&L Wine Merchants in Hollywood, Lincoln Fine Wines in Venice, Wally's Wine & Spirits in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, the Wine Country in Signal Hill, Wine Exchange in Santa Ana and Woodland Hills Wine Co. in Woodland Hills. About $25.
2013 The Prisoner Wine Co. "The Prisoner" (Napa Valley)
Italian immigrants who originally settled the Napa Valley planted field blends of what's known as "mixed blacks." That's the inspiration behind winemaker Jen Beloz's take on the Prisoner's proprietary red blend. The dominant grape is Zinfandel, but there's also Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Syrah and more in the blend. The result is a lush, rich red with the character to stand up to those smoke-laden ribs. Great with a burger too. Look for it at Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa, K&L Wine Merchants in Hollywood, Mission Wines in South Pasadena, Renegade Wines in Santa Barbara, Total Wine & More at various locations, Wally's Wine & Spirits in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, Wine Exchange in Santa Ana, Wine House in Los Angeles, Woodland Hills Wine Co. in Woodland Hills and many more stores. From $32 to $40.
2012 Raúl Pérez Mencia Vico Bierzo (Bierzo, Spain)
Spanish wine aficionados are always on the prowl for Raúl Pérez wines, but of all the many wines this extremely talented winemaker makes — most in minuscule quantities — this red may be the best value. That doesn't mean it's inexpensive, but for the towering quality, it's a buy. Made from vines close to a century old, the 2012 Raúl Pérez Mencia Vico Bierzo is a big, juicy red with tightly woven dark berry flavors, pepper, spice and wild herbs. If you can't snag this bottle, keep an eye out for anything else from the Spanish winemaker. The wines don't tend to stay on wine shop shelves very long. Look for it at Lou Wine Shop & Tastings in Los Angeles, the Wine Exchange in Santa Ana and from Wine.com. About $36.