One of the best Sunset perks is the view across the employee parking lot on Monday afternoons, when a convoy of food trucks pulls up in front of our neighborhood market. With the prospect of roast chicken, a lobster roll, or mustardy pulled pork, dinner’s done. The next question, though, is always, But what wine should I drink with that?
Wines for Your Food Truck Fare

As workplace perks go, Sunset may fall short of nearby Facebook or Google, but with a test kitchen, the occasional test-garden plant giveaway, and a wine cellar, no one’s complaining. But the best perk of all these days is the view across the employee parking lot on Monday afternoons, when a convoy of food trucks pulls up in front of our neighborhood market. With the prospect of roast chicken from Roli Roti (those potatoes roasting in dripping fat underneath …), a Maine lobster roll from the Old Post Lobster Shack (we do try to eat local, but …), or mustardy pulled pork from Hill Country BBQ, dinner’s done. The next question, though, is always, But what wine should I drink with that?

This last Monday, we tackled the issue. About 10 Sunset staffers convened over a tableful of our food-truck faves and 15 bottles of wine or so, to get to the bottom of what really goes with carnitas tacos and the like. I was in favor of a completely random, non-scientific approach, but it quickly became clear that a little direction was in order: “Point me toward a few promising wines for this chicken.” So after divvying up dish-matching assignments and suggesting general wine directions to try, I became the wine-editor fly on the wall and just listened to the fun. Comments and finds—the brilliant and the odd—spilled out in a jumble:

“I enjoyed the Pinot Gris with the baked beans.” (Huh??)

“The Pinot Noir is lovely with the carnitas.” But also, “These carnitas tacos are really salty; I think Tempranillo cuts the salt.” And, “I was going to try the Riesling with the carnitas, but I accidentally ate all my carnitas.”

“Lobster Mac ‘n’ cheese makes a great palate cleanser.”

“The lobster in the roll is so rich, it kills this unoaked Chardonnay and the oaked one. The Albariño is the only wine that has anything left at the end.”

“I stand by the Pinot with the carnitas. Actually, I just stand by this Pinot Noir.” (And that without knowing that it was the most extravagant bottle on the table.)

“Uh, I think we have a Petite Sirah and roast chicken contigent down here.” (Crazy talk!)

“The Pinot Gris works with everything—it’s awesome with the crab roll and the chicken, and really good with the fries.”

“The pulled pork is making all the reds taste metallic, but the Viognier has sweet fruit that handles the mustard.”

And hesitantly, “We both think the Riesling goes well with the fish tacos.” (Why the hesitation? Yes, of course it does! With its racy acidity, gamut of fruit, and minerality, dry Riesling is one dynamite food wine.)

Best matches with our line-up

Crab roll: Albariño, Pinot Gris, Unoaked Chardonnay

Lobster roll: Albariño, Viognier

Fries: Pinot Gris

Lobster mac ‘n’ cheese: Pinot Gris, Riesling, Albariño

Roasted chicken and potatoes: Pinot Gris, Grenache Blend, Petite Sirah (!)

Fish tacos: Riesling

Carnitas tacos: Pinot Noir, Tempranillo

Chile rellenos: Riesling

Pulled pork: Viognier, Riesling

Smoked brisket: Petite Sirah (although it was a split decision—love it or hate it)

Baked beans: Petite Sirah

And the winning wines:

Harney Lane 2011 Albariño (Lodi; $19)

McManis Family 2012 Viognier (California; $12)

Milbrandt 2012 “Traditions” Pinot Gris (Columbia Valley; $; 13)

Morgan 2011 “Metallico Un-Oacked Chardonnay (Monterey; $22)

Smigh-Madrone 2011 Riesling (Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley; $27)

Epiphany 2009 “Gypsy” Grenache, Mourvèdre, Counoise, and Cinsault Blend (Santa Barbara County; $25)

Matchbook 2010 Tempranillo (Dunnigan Hills; $15)

Pfendler 2011 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast; $45)

Stags’ Leap Winery 2010 Petite Sirah (Napa Valley; $39)

The takeaway (so to speak)?

The wines we drink most of in this country—Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay—really shouldn’t be the go-tos when a food truck is supplying your home-meal replacement. No, be daring here. Go for the crisper and/or more aromatic whites (Pinot Gris, Albariño, Viognier, Riesling) and the generously fruity, spicy reds (Grenache-based blends, Tempranillo, Petite Sirah).

And finally, a couple of caveats: Be careful with delicate Pinot Noir—it can be lovely, but it can also get killed off by boldly spiced food. And watch out for hugely tannic reds and salty foods; tannin and salt wage war on each other.

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