St. Louis-Style BBQ Pork Steaks Paired with J Vineyards & Winery’s Sparkling Wines
“Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!” – Dom Perignon
Whenever my husband and I want to celebrate a special event or holiday, we select a bottle of sparkling wine or Champagne for the occasion. Nothing seems more festive than popping the cork on a bottle of bubbly, sipping the stars, and toasting to an anniversary, birthday, or New Year. And this year, more than any other year in the past, it may be a two cork popping kind of night on New Year’s Eve to bid adieu to 2020. I emphatically say “Good riddance!”
While I’m not sure what will be on the dinner menu this New Year’s Eve at our home, I do know that two lovely sparkling wines will be making an appearance on the table that night – J Vineyards & Winery’s Cuvée 20 and their Brut Rosé.
J Vineyards & Winery – Healdsburg, California
Located in California’s Russian River Valley, J Vineyards & Winery was founded by Judy Jordan in 1986 at the age of 25. Growing up in a food and wine culture as a member of the Jordan Winery family in Sonoma County, Jordan always had a passion for the soil and topography of the region and studied geology at Stanford University. Her ground-breaking vision was to make world-class sparkling wines in the Russian River Valley, which was a bold move at that time. She produced her first vintage Brut in 1987. It was released in the early 1990s and she added Pinot Noir to the winery’s portfolio several years later.
Today, with winemaker Nicole Hitchcock, J Vineyards produces a vintage sparkling wine every year. Hitchcock credits the Russian River Valley’s ideal climate where the long sunny days ripen the grapes and marine-influenced cool nights retain the acidity and fruit. She adds that diverse neighborhoods and vineyards contribute different elements to the wine with both estate-grown fruit and sourcing from long-term growers. In addition to sparkling wines and Pinot Noir, J Vineyards also produces several white wines, including Chardonnay and Pinot Gris (one of my favorites).
J Vineyards & Winery is one of a handful of California wineries that use a French Coquard press to produce their sparkling wines. The grapes are hand-harvested and then placed as whole clusters, without destemming, into the Coquard press. This allows for a gentle, low-pressure pressing to minimize the breakdown of the grape skins and seeds, which produces a cleaner and more vibrant juice. This process results in a lively sparkling wine with an elegant mouthfeel. They also use the Traditional Method for sparkling wine production, where the second fermentation takes place in the bottle and is aged en tirage (“on the yeast”) in cool cellars for approximately 30 months.
Food and Wine Pairings at J Vineyards & Winery
J Vineyards & Winery has developed a reputation as one of the top sparkling and varietal wine producers in California. And one of the best ways to showcase their lovely wines is to pair them with food. Carl Shelton, their executive chef, creates innovative Sonoma-inspired, three-course seasonal pairing menus for guests to enjoy at the winery’s Bubble Room. These tastings change every six weeks. But until we can safely travel again to visit California and sample these pairings in person, we have been enjoying Chef Shelton’s pairings in the comfort of our own home.
Chef Carl Shelton’s Dad’s St. Louis-Style BBQ Pork Steak
I’ve cooked a lot of pork dishes with various cuts over the years, but I was not familiar with pork blade steaks until I received this recipe from Chef Shelton. After a quick online search, I found that they are popular in the Midwest (hence the name), and it’s a cut from the shoulder of a pig (or what’s commonly known as a Boston butt). Surprisingly, one of our local markets had pork blade steaks, so I didn’t need to get a whole Boston butt and request that the butcher cut the steaks, as I had expected.
When I asked the chef why he chose this particular cut of meat for the pairing, he told me, “My Father was the inspiration for this dish. This was part of a Father’s Day pairing, and I wanted to have a dish that reminds me of home, especially my father. In St. Louis, we call them pork steaks, and as you said, it is very common in the Midwest. It is a cross-cut from the shoulder that contains a small piece of the shoulder blade attached. Usually, shoulders are slow-cooked, but the way this is butchered allows it to be cooked quickly with medium to high heat. I think the flavor is unmatched, especially comparing to, say, a pork chop.”
Chef Shelton went on to describe the pairing. “I chose to pair it with these two sparkling wines, for one to show the flexibility of sparkling wine and to show that you can serve sparkling wines with grilled meats. The Cuvée 20 goes great because it has this nice acidity that cuts through the richness of the pork, and it really showcases the apple notes in the wine with the savory BBQ sauce and acid-driven marinade on the pork. The red fruit notes really pop in the Brut Rosé, and the herbs in the marinade bring out the herbaceous notes I get in the Brut Rosé. Plus, I really like to pair Brut Rosé with smokey BBQ flavors, especially grilled items. Also, both wines are great for hot summer BBQ days.”
What about accompaniments for the pork steaks? “As far as sides go, I think mashed potatoes are a great addition, but also roasted potatoes, because the roasted flavors will go great with the yeasty, earthy flavors I get from the tirage time both of these sparkling wines undergo. Another great BBQ side that will go excellent with the pork and both wines would be a classic coleslaw. The texture of a creamy coleslaw will go great with the mousse in these wines and also they the acidity in the wines will balance out the sweetness in the coleslaw.”
When we prepared our meal at home, we went with the chef’s coleslaw suggestion. We then opted for a baked mac and cheese dish as the second accompaniment. It was a great choice with the rich sauce made by combining cheddar and Dutch Bike cheeses. If you’re not familiar with Dutch Bike, it’s one of our top picks for a snacking cheese. It looks like Swiss cheese, but it’s actually a unique blend of Gouda, Swiss, and Parmesan that makes it nuttier in taste than a traditional Swiss cheese. It’s a wonderful alternative to use in many recipes calling for Swiss cheese.
We also decided to tenderize the meat with a gadget we use frequently in our kitchen, the XSpecial Meat Tenderizer Tool. As Chef Shelton mentioned, this cut of pork is usually slow-cooked to tenderize the meat over hours, so we added this step before marinating the steaks. Since we like things on the spicy side, we kicked up the heat a notch in the BBQ sauce by adding a little Puckerbutt Pepper Company’s The Reaper Puree. This sauce is 80% Carolina Reaper pepper mash, so it doesn’t take much to notch it up, and it also elevated the flavors of the BBQ sauce.
We enjoyed the Cuvée 20 on its own, mostly while preparing the meal, and then paired the food with the Brut Rosé, which was an exceptional pairing for some of the same reasons Chef Shelton mentioned. The Brut Rosé was delicious with the smoky BBQ sauce and brought out a bit of the sauce’s sweetness. It also was the perfect bright and bubbly contrast to the creamy cheese sauce in the mac and cheese.
The tasting notes on the Brut Rosé read, “Our bright and lively J Brut Rosé sparkles with a vibrant salmon-pink hue and an inviting, fruit-driven aroma and palate. The wine opens with fruit notes of strawberry, raspberry, Rainier cherries, and juicy red grapefruit wedges, with hints of cream, brioche toast, and a subtle kiss of cardamom and star anise spice giving richness and depth to the palate.”
These are the tasting notes on the Cuvée 20, which has become our sparkling wine of choice for special evenings. “Elegant and lively, our J Cuvée 20 Brut offers is a classic Russian River Valley sparkling wine, offering a dance of bubbles across a complex palate that expertly balances appealing fruit notes, rich nuttiness from years spent aging on the lees and a crisp, clean finish. Cuvée 20 opens with notes of baked apple, baked lemon bar, white peach and nectarine, which is given complexity with hints of crème brûlée, toasted chestnut, brioche toast, and apple pie spice.”
Other pairings J Vineyards recommends for the Cuvée 20 are two main dishes – a black cod with caramelized cauliflower and Meyer lemon or poussin with roasted chestnuts and citrus chutney. For a cheese pairing, they suggest Camembert with roasted apples and black truffle. Hmm…could these dishes be on our New Year’s Eve menu??
As we head into the New Year, I hope you will take time to prepare a delicious meal paired with a bottle or two of sparkling cheer, celebrate new beginnings, and say a rousing farewell to 2020!
If you’re interested in learning more about sparkling wines, wineries, and wine and food pairings, please refer to these articles:
A Visit to Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG – The Prosecco Superiore Region of Italy
Elevated Burgers Paired with Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignons
Exploring the Wine and Oyster Regions of Virginia
Exploring the Wines of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, the Northeastern Wine Region of Italy
Viking River Cruise from Lyon to Avignon – The Land of Fine Wine and Cuisine
Windstar’s James Beard Culinary Cruise of Portugal, Spain, and France
Raffaldini & Childress Vineyards – Wines of the Yadkin Valley in North Carolina
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Chef Carl Shelton's Dad’s St. Louis-Style BBQ Pork Steak
Pair these flavorful St. Louis Style BBQ Pork Blade Steaks with J Vineyards & Winery's Cuvée 20 and their Brut Rosé.
- 4 Each – Pork Blade Steaks, cut about ½” thick by butcher
- 1 Cup – Water
- ¼ Cup – Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 Tsp. – Italian Dried Spice Mix
- 1 Each – Garlic Clove, finely chopped
- 1 Each – Shallot, finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp. – Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 Tsp. – Kosher Salt
- ½ to 1 Cup – BBQ Sauce, non-spicy
- Make the marinade by whisking together the water, vinegar, Italian spices, garlic, shallot, J Extra Virgin Olive Oil and salt. Can be made up to a day ahead.
- Heat grill to medium-high.
- Put two of the pork steaks into a gallon storage bag, and the other two pork steaks into the other gallon storage bag. Divide the marinade between the two bags, seal tightly and shake thoroughly to coat each steak. Marinate for at least 30 minutes, but no longer than one hour. Remove pork steaks from plastic bags and discard marinade. Place pork steaks on the heated grill. Grill-mark one side of the pork steaks for 1-2 minutes, rotate the steak 90 degrees to complete the grill-marking, and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Flip the steaks over and brush the grill-marked side with BBQ sauce. Grill-mark the other side of the pork steaks for another 1-2 minutes, rotate 90 degrees, and cook for another 1-2 minutes before flipping again. Brush second side with BBQ sauce.
- Continue to grill and brush BBQ sauce as desired. Using a meat thermometer, cook until pork steaks reach an internal temperature of 145°F.
This recipe is courtesy of Executive Chef Carl Shelton and J Vineyards & Winery in Healdsburg, California
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Disclosure – I partnered with J Vineyards & Winery on this article but was not compensated by them or paid by them for any articles. The opinions expressed regarding the recipe and wines are my own.