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May 31, 2017
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WINE WITH…Burgers with Guacamole

On a warm summery evening our thoughts turn to burgers. That intoxicating smell of meat sizzling on the grill. The familiar sight of jars and bottles of condiments lined up on the table. The splish-splash of sturdy red wine being poured into glasses. And that delicious instant when your teeth first sink into the lightly toasted bun…. These are some of the evocative routines associated with the hamburger ritual. But every now and then we’ll stray from the familiar gastronomic path. Forget the catsup and mayo--let’s mash up some avocado instead. Slices of tomato and sliced onions? No, we’ll combine the two into a simple fresh relish. And let’s replace those lettuce leaves with fresh cilantro.

Burgers With Guacamole

For four burgers

About 1 1/4 pounds ground beef
Salt and pepper
1 cup chopped cherry, grape or other small tomatoes
½ cup minced sweet onion such as Vidalia or Walla Walla
1 jalapeno pepper, finely minced
½ teaspoon chili powder (use ancho powder or commercial chili powder)
1 avocado
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 hamburger buns, preferably brioche
4 slices cheddar cheese (optional)
1 cup cilantro leaves

Divide the beef into 4 sections and form each of them into a patty about ¾ inch thick. Do not overwork the meat. Salt and pepper the patties on each side then arrange them in a single layer on a tray or large plate and refrigerate until ready to cook.

In a medium bowl combine the chopped tomatoes, onions, jalapeno pepper and chili powder. Season with salt and pepper and reserve.

Peel and remove the pit from the avocado. Put the flesh in a bowl and add the lemon juice and olive oil. Mash the avocado coarsely. Add salt and pepper, mash it a little more, and taste for seasoning, adjusting accordingly.

Grill or pan fry the burgers, and toast the buns lightly on the grill or in a broiler or toaster oven. To serve, spread both the top and bottom buns with the avocado mix. Place a burger on the bottom half of each bun, top with a slice of cheese if using, and a generous spoonful of the tomato-onion relish. Sprinkle with cilantro leaves and top each burger with the other half of the bun.

* * *

This is definitely a red wine meal, but not every red will perform well. Don’t go for light-bodied ones, but at the same time don’t opt for wines with overtly astringent tannins. Instead, look for fruit-forward wines with seductively soft textures that taste rich and ripe. And don’t worry about alcohol levels. These burgers are sufficiently robust to tame heady wines.

Connect  on Twitter:   @M_L_Thomas  and  @Wine_With_
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Approx. Price


Chronic Cellars, Paso Robles (California) “Sofa King Bueno” 2015


Mostly a Rhône styled wine, with some Petite Sirah and Tannat in the mix, this is a spicy, fleshy red. Its flavors are definitely fruit forward, but its texture is chewy, even meaty, and that combination helped it pair very nicely with our burgers.

Kendall-Jackson, California “Vintner’s Reserve” Zinfandel 2014


A fairly restrained Zin, with no evidence of over-ripe fruit. Instead, the wine is finely balanced. It offers plenty of red berry fruit and briary spice, but keeps all its elements in harmony. As such, it outperforms many Zinfandels that cost considerably more.

Liberty School, Paso Robles (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2013


Jammy and rich, this wine is not for the faint of heart or palate. It’s forceful and full of ripe fruit flavors. These burgers, though, with their spicy relish match it step for step in terms of big, bold flavor.

Tineta, Ribera del Duero (Spain) 2015

(Imported by The Country Vintner)


Lush and seductive, this Spanish beauty is an excellent value. It sports soft tannins but, due to its bright acidity, never seems overly soft or flabby. Instead, its compelling flavors shine brightly and gain complexity as you drink it. The lightest wine we are recommending, it nonetheless has plenty of backbone and worked beautifully with the burgers.

Charles Smith Wines, Washington State Melot “The Velvet Devil” 2014


A juicy wine, full of red fruit, and very nicely balanced, this wine demonstrates that people who disparage Merlot as a variety are missing out on wines that can offer superb value. This rendition is neither overly soft nor excessively sweet, but instead shows fine balance and so tastes harmonious.