The partial lineup of wines and meats at the Posse's Smoke, Wine & BBQ shindig. (Photo ©Don Rypka)

When the Posse eats smoked meat, the word "sipping" is usually not in our vocabulary. We prefer to swig, whether it’s beer or Big Red.

But we did change the pace a bit recently with a barbecue and wine tasting shindig that had even Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins sounding like a sommelier.

“This is incredible,” he wrote about a Gamble Family Heart Block Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley. “Very smooth, not too dry, full of complex flavors.”

The party, which started at 4 p.m. and was still going at midnight, was at the Austin home of Posse members Libby and Mike Gagne, my daughter and son-in-law. We served sausage, chicken, pork ribs, brisket, pork shoulder, lamb and barbacoa along with 14 different wines.

The wines ranged in price from about $10 a bottle to more than $100. I cooked the chicken and baby backs. We added some extra smoke to the packaged Southside brand sausages and Mike finished them in garlic butter. We purchased the rest of the barbecue from Micklethwait Craft Meats in Austin.

Mike, who has become quite a wine expert over the past couple years, supplied most of the wines. Chris and I and some guests also brought wine. The next morning we counted 27 empty bottles. There were 20 guests, including long-time Posse regulars and first-timers who were friends of Libby and Mike’s.

“We followed the fundamental Posse lesson, pace yourself,” Libby said of the evening. And, for the most part, it was sipping that we did, not swigging. Libby and Mike are charter members of the Posse, joining our first bbq tour in Nov. 2009. They also set up our first visit to the original Franklin Barbecue trailer in Austin, having befriended Aaron Franklin during the earliest days of his barbecue adventure.

Partygoers took notes as we compared 14 wines and 7 smoked meats. (Photo ©Don Rypka)

Before we get too far along, we need to mention a couple wine/bbq pairings that were particularly praised by several tasters. Everyone received small notebooks and pens at the beginning of the affair so we could write our thoughts:

— The smoked chicken with a Gamble Family Rose. “Love the fruit notes on the finish juxtaposed with the smokey chicken,” Bradley Markham wrote.

— The baby backs with a Limerick Lane Russian River Zinfandel. “The spice of the ribs and the green pepper of the wine were the perfect complement,” Kelly Blanchard wrote. An Alamos Malbec from Argentina also got a couple mentions with the ribs.

We had been talking about a bbq and wine affair for a while. We certainly aren't the first to write about the possible pairings. But we wanted to give it a definite Posse spin. How would the event work? What barbecue would we cook or purchase from others? Wine pairings? How would some of our favorites (Velvet Devil Merlot, Earthquake Zinfandel) stack up? The logistics evolved. Mike wrote short summaries of each of the wines we included and distributed them to the tasters as the party started.

For the Limerick Lane Zin, he wrote: “Sourced from vines originally planted by Italian immigrants in the early 1900s. . .Chewy and intense, balanced and full of clean fruit and earth without raisin or oak intensity.”

I cooked on two Weber Kettles, using charcoal, wood chips and wood chunks, offsetting the meat from direct heat. I brined the ribs and chicken for several hours in salt water and then applied different rubs. The chicken rub was from a Weber recipe for Beer Can Chicken. I doubled the amounts of the ingredients and brined instead of using the beer can technique. The ribs got a generous coating of Big Poppa’s Money Rub. It has punch. If you’re looking for a one-bite explosion of taste to impress friends -- and even competition judges -- this is it.

Chris and Mike picked up the other meats, including a rack of spare ribs and extra sausage, about noon from Micklethwait. We put their meats in a super-insulated cooler, adding the stuff I cooked as it finished. Everything but the Southside sausage was in the cooler by 2:30 p.m. The method worked. Nothing had to be re-heated and it all was in one place as we staged the servings.

To start the festivities, Mike Gagne prepares jicama salmon avocado basil wraps. (Photo ©Don Rypka)

For the first course, Mike made jicama salmon avocado basil wraps. They disappeared quickly. “So delicate. So delightful,” Rebecka Foss wrote. She liked the lamb with the Cecilia Beretta Soraie, too.

Wilkins liked the lamb with a Vintjs Old Vine Zinfandel from California. “This smoked lamb is tremendous,” he wrote. “I could eat a pound of it, maybe on fresh tortillas.”

I liked the Southside sausage with Earthquake Zinfandel. “Great,” I wrote in my notebook, proving that I don’t quite have the sommelier lingo down yet.

“The Micklethwait sausage and Merlot was the,” Nate Foss wrote.

Brett Marlier liked the sausage with the Gamble Rose and all of Micklethwait’s meats. “I’ll take my wife there for our next date,” he wrote.

Kelly Blanchard liked the Velvet Devil Merlot with the lamb. “The currant flavor complemented the spiciness of the lamb,” she wrote.

Mike thought the Merlot paired better with the Micklethwait ribs than the Limerick Lane Zin.

“The killer wine was the Heart Block,” author and journalist Sam Gwynne wrote. “I could drink that with ballpark hot dogs and be happy.” He also liked the Gamble Family Rose and said the Sherwin Family Cab and the Zinfandels were good with the red meats.

Testing the Southside sausage, which paired will with the Earthquake Zinfandel. (Photo ©Don Rypka)

Very few, though, cared much for the barbacoa. And the brisket, surprisingly, also received few mentions, with or without wine. The staging may have been a factor. The brisket, resting in the cooler, was the last meat served, several hours into the event. And there wasn’t much room left for food or drink.

“The brisket was still solid but not near as good as the slices we sampled right after we picked them up,” Wilkins observed when we replayed the evening a couple days later.

The reaction to my ribs and chicken did surprise me. I’ve been cooking them for years and years on regular Weber Kettles and the Weber Smokey Mountain. For this cook, I used two kettles with charcoal, wood chips and wood chunks. The meat was offset from the direct fire and I rotated the meats regularly to even out the heat. On a Smokey Mountain, my ribs usually take 5-6 hours. These were done in 3.5 to 4 hours. That’s why I brine. It gives you a bit more forgiveness if the temps run up. It definitely helps maintain juiciness, too.

“The Rose and chicken was ungodly,” Roy Appleton wrote. “Soft, smooth, lovely. . .Best g.d. rib ever, of all time, period, paragraph.”

Wow. High praise from a long-time journalist and former colleague at The Dallas Morning News. And his wife, Susan, agreed: “Chicken juicy, just perfect.”

Sherry, my wife, can be a tough critic. But even she liked the baby backs. “Ribs were the best in years, Gary!” she wrote. Sherry thought the ribs paired better with the Malbec than the Zin, although she did like the Limerick Lane Zin all by itself.

Don Rypka, photographer and close friend of Wilkins, liked the Malbec pairing with my ribs, too. “Gary’s ribs — world class,” he wrote. “The best rib I’ve had. Cooked to perfection, tugs gently to come off the bone, outer portions caramelized with a seasoning that is perfect.” (Some of Don’s photos illustrate this story.)

Nate Foss added: “Ribs & Zinfandel = Heaven.”

So, on my next cook, there definitely will be some performance pressure. And we’ll probably do a little sipping then, too.

Gary Jacobson, left, and Mike Gagne hang the Posse banner before the party. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

The wines:

— Gamble Family Rose, 2018, Oakville, Ca.
— Gamble Family Heart Block Sauvignon Bland, 2014 & 2016.
— Kungfu Girl Riesling, 2017, Washington State
— Upper Eden Pinot Noir, 2017, Santa Lucia Highlands, Ca.
— Liberte Pinot Noir, 2016, San Luis Obispo County, Ca.
— Cecilia Beretta Soraie, 2016, Veneto, Italy
— Vintjs Old Vine Zinfandel, 2016, Lodi, Ca.
— Alamos Malbec, 2017, Mendoza, Argentina
— The Velvet Devil Merlot, 2016, Washington State
— Earthquake Zinfandel, 2016, Lodi, Ca.
— Limerick Lane Zinfandel, 2013, Russian River, Ca.
— Constant Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011, Diamond Mountain Vineyard, Napa Valley
— Sherwin Family Estate Cabernet, 2014, Spring Mountain District, Ca.
— Chateau Contet, 2015, Barsac Sauterne

Empty bottles line the counter at Libby & Mike Gagne's home. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

Barbecue Posse veteran and wine expert Mike Gagne wrote and distributed these notes about some of the wines we tasted at the Smoke, Wine & BBQ shindig in Austin, Texas, on June 29, 2019.

Gamble Family Rose - 2018 - Oakville, California
Wild strawberry, Ranier cherry and tangerine zest as well as notes of white peaches, Fuji apple & orange blossom.
Refreshingly dry with bright acidity and a long, crisp finish.
Blend: 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Cabernet Franc, 8% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot
Try with the Sausage, Chicken, and Pulled Lamb

Gamble Family Heart Block Sauv Blanc - 2014 & 2016
Silky white Sauv Blanc comes from the heart— the center of the Gamble Vineyard at the Oakville region of Napa Valley.
Produced from a select block planted with two French clones of Sauvignon Blanc.
Jasmine, coconut, mango, and mandarin orange from 18 months aging on lees.
Try with Salmon, Sausage, Chicken, Pulled Lamb and Barbacoa

Upper Eden Pinot Noir - 2017 - Santa Lucia Highlands, California
Middleweight flavor of black cherry, RC Cola and an accent of toasty oak.
Structured, with good integration of the alcohol, and a modest finish.
Try with Chicken, Sausage, and Pork Shoulder, Barbacoa

Cecilia Beretta Soraie - 2016 - Veneto, Italy
Northern italian merlot blend
40% Merlot, 30% Corvina, 20% Cab Sauv, 10% Coratina
Made from partially dried grapes (for a few weeks, rather than months) prior to fermentation - the same 'appassimento' method as used in Amarone.
Blendl grapes grown on the very top of the hills (hence the name Soraie), where the sun and cool breeze ripen the best grapes.
Try with Sausage, Chicken, Pork Shoulder, Pulled Lamb, Ribs

Vintjs Old Vine Zinfandel - 2016 - Lodi, California
Try with Sausage, Pork Shoulder, Pulled Lamb, Barbacoa, Ribs

Alamos Malbec - 2017 - Mendoza, Argentina
Aromas of violets and deep, full flavors of plum with small portions of Syrah (10%) and Bonarda (5%) to add dark cherry and blackberry flavors.
Oak adds layers of complexity with tones of spice and vanilla.
Try with Sausage, Ribs, Barbacoa, Brisket, Pork Shoulder

The Velvet Devil Merlot - 2016 - Washington State
89% Merlot, 10% Cab, 1% Malbec
Green pepper, herb, currant
Try with Sausage, Chicken, Pork Shoulder, Pulled Lamb, Ribs

Earthquake Zinfandel - 2016 - Lodi, California
Deep, rich and smokey; jammy and chewy with ripe berries and fruit
100% Zin
Try with Sausage, Pork Shoulder, Pulled Lamb, Barbacoa, Ribs, Brisket

Limerick Lane Russian River Zinfandel - 2013 - Russian River, California
Sourced from vines originally planted by Italian immigrants in the early 1900s.
Field blend of old Zinfandel with Peloursin, Negrette, and Petite Sirah which add structure, color, and acid.
Chewy and intense, balanced and full of clean fruit and earth without raisin or oak intensity.
Try with Sausage, Pork Shoulder, Pulled Lamb, Barbacoa, Ribs, Brisket

Sherwin Family Estate Cabernet - 2014 - Spring Mountain District, California
Sourced entirely from their 16-acre estate vineyard at the top of Spring Mountain, it is an opaque ruby blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc.
Packed with black currants, dark plums, anise, hazelnuts, lavender and savory herbs, it is a full-bodied wine with low-to-medium acidity, seamless alcohol (listed as 14.5%) and a judicious amount of French oak.
Try with Sausage, Pork Shoulder, Pulled Lamb, Barbacoa, Ribs, Brisket

Texas BBQ Posse co-founders Gary Jacobson, left, and Chris Wilkins. (Photo ©Don Rypka)
Young partygoers enjoyed the pool while mom & dad paired smoked meats with wines.. (Photo ©Don Rypka)
All that was left of a rack of Micklethwait ribs & Gary's smoked chicken. (Photo ©Don Rypka)

Todd Tinker

4 years ago

You guys should be ashamed of yourselves!! Not a single Texas wine on the list!!??
Poor form!!

Marshall Cooper

4 years ago

Absolutely agree!!!

Gary Jacobson

4 years ago

Hear you Todd, buy you gotta go with what you like. . .What Texas wines would you recommend?

Libby Gagne

4 years ago

Very good point! Looks like we'll have to do this again...

Rebecka Foss

4 years ago

Great write up Gary! My mouth waters just reading about the ribs and remembering the smokey taste. Such a fun night, thanks for hosting Libby!

Zach Jones

4 years ago

Just curious - are y’all accepting applications to join the Texas BBQ Posse? Or is it more of a closed/friends only thing? I would love to join your squad. I have decent credentials upon request.

Chris Wilkins

4 years ago

Hi Zach: Thanks for writing, the Posse is basically just a loose group of friends, nothing official. We've slowed down a little bit on the blog since last Fall but will probably do a trip later this year. If you live in Texas I can let you know if we're hitting the road. Regards/Chris

Denise Clarke

4 years ago

This is great....I hope you will do this again with some Texas wines! Check out the Texas Fine Wine "Texas Wine and BBQ Pairing Guide."

Austin Top 5 plus Snow's

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