hand touching bowl of spiced rub

Red Wine-Friendly Marinades and Dry Rubs

When seeking to take your steak to the next level, there are plenty of tricks that will get you there. But it’s a different talent to flawlessly match grilled meat with wine. Think: Younger wines with higher fat steaks or unique spice blends that coax out the wine’s natural flavors. Here at Jordan Winery, we specialize in cabernet, and we’ve honed our craft with the King of Reds since 1976. So we know red wine and red meat. To enjoy your grilled goodies to their maximum potential, savor our tips, rubs and marinades for pairing with cabernet sauvignon.

Tips for Pairing Grilled Meats with Cabernet Sauvignon

cooked filet mignon on plate next to a glass of Cabernet with bottles of Jordan Winery Cabernet in the background

Complement its Cornerstones

When pairing the king of red wines with grilled meats, I look for ingredients that mirror or complement elements found in Jordan Cabernet. The basic rule of thumb is not to overwhelm the character in the wine. To me, cabernet is fruit, herbs, earth and tannin; those are my anchor points.

Because Jordan Cabernet is aged entirely in French oak, I love adding ingredients to rubs and marinades that bring a complementary earthy note, such as porcini mushroom powder and dried herbs. Along with Tellicherry peppercorns from southwest India—prized for their deep, rich flavor—rosemary, oregano, thyme, marjoram and dill bring out the classic, subtle earthiness in cabernet sauvignon.

To highlight the lovely dried herb notes cabernet is known for, I often reach for mint, bay leaf, anise and black pepper.

Cocoa powder is another secret for cabernet pairings, because it makes the dark fruits in the wine shine. When I’m looking to make the fruit shine in a young Jordan Cab, I love adding dark cocoa powder to dry rubs. It has the tannin to bridge with the oak in the wine, and its flavor really makes the blackberries, cherries and cassis in Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon stand out.

I also favor an African dukkah spice mixture that includes aromatic ingredients, such as fennel pollen, pink peppercorns and pistachio nuts, along with wild pecans and coriander. The combination of the tannins in the nuts, berry notes from the sumac and earthy notes from the fennel match some of the classic elements in cabernet, which helps create a seamless pairing. And the high oil content in the fennel seeds helps soften the tannins in the wine.

overhead view of four spices in glass jars

Keep it Fresh

The key, when purchasing spices, is to be sure they are fresh and still pungent. Look for a spice company that toasts and/or grinds to order, such as World Spice Merchants. We’re currently working with them to create two custom spice blends for Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon (available for purchase on the online shop). Perfect for beef, pork and lamb, the Lazy J Rub features demerara sugar, kosher salt, cocoa powder, black peppercorn, coriander seed, chili flakes, lemon peel, cumin and garlic. Maintaining the fruit in red wine at the table is key, and I love the idea of our fans enjoying a spice recipe at home that’s going to make the fruit in Jordan Cabernet pop.

When creating cabernet-friendly marinades (also known as wet rubs), I incorporate fresh herbs that mirror elements in Jordan’s wine. I find that fresh thyme, oregano, marjoram and rosemary all enhance the classic, dried herb notes in cabernet. And when I’m cooking down my sauce, I always add the fresh herbs at the end, so you experience the same fresh flavors and aromas in the food as in the wine.

hands cutting brisket with knife and red wine glass on table

Pick Your Protein

The cut of meat is almost as important for cabernet pairings as the marinade or rub. The younger the wine, the fattier and char-forward the cut of meat needs to be—like a ribeye steak. You want to subdue the tannins in younger wines and highlight the fruit. Both fats and proteins tame the tannins in cabernet sauvignon, allowing the subtle notes of fruit and spice to be more pronounced on the palate. While fat and protein bind with the tannins, there is a perception in the mouth that the tannins are softened. The char masks the tannin by overpowering it.

Red Wine-Friendly Marinade and Dry Rub Recipes for Cabernet Sauvignon

hand sprinkling spice on large brisket on grill

Brisket Rub Noir

Despite its leaner profile, brisket is one of my go-to barbecue meats to pair with Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon. Because of the low-and-slow cooking process, the meat develops an outer crust, or bark, that adds a wonderful textural dimension to the pairing. Brisket was made to go with Bordeaux-style reds like Jordan. Rich, complex flavors develop in the meat during the long cooking time, just as a cabernet gains complexity in the barrel. You just can’t replicate that with a steak on the grill.

This easy, sweet and savory rub infuses incredible flavor into the brisket. Try this favorite coffee-rubbed beef brisket rub recipe, ideal for pairing with a bottle of Jordan cabernet.

View the recipe >>

lamb chops placed on grill with rosemary

Sonoma Lamb Wet Mop Marinade

While Jordan Cabernet pairs beautifully with beef, my absolute favorite pairing is a perfectly cooked rack of Sonoma lamb. Lamb with cabernet is just a given; it’s a slam dunk. Depending on the cut, lamb can be fairly lean, and marinades help keep the meat moist and succulent while it slow roasts. I recommend applying to large cuts of meat two hours prior to grilling or smoking, allowing the marinade to react with the protein and come to room temperature. Quick to prepare, this wet mop marinade recipe is the key to making your food and wine pairing sing.

View the recipe >>

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About the Author

Growing up in Hawaii, Todd Knoll developed a strong connection to the land and the ocean at an early age. As executive chef at Jordan Winery, he grows hundreds of heirloom vegetables, fruits and herbs, cooks hors d’oeuvres and meals for guests, makes olive oil, and tends to the estate’s honeybees and chickens. A visual artist at heart, Chef Knoll spends his free time with his son and wife, Nitsa Knoll, exploring the diverse terrain of Sonoma County with camera and pencil in hand, capturing moments in nature to inspire his next recipe.

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