by Holly Fann
Gut Check loves us some wine. We want a bottle with bang and a bang for our buck, so every week we will visit a local wine shop, where an expert will recommend a good-value wine priced under $15. We'll drink some and tell you whether we want to continue -- because the only time Gut Check has our nose in the air is while we're draining our glass.
It's the Fourth of July weekend, and Gut Check has two things on our mind: grilling us some meat (slathered in Maull's barbecue sauce) and drinking cold ones, be they beer or wine.
It might seem a little odd to some, but wine and barbecue are a natural combo -- if you choose wisely. "Wisely" not being an adverb typically deployed in a sentence with "Gut Check," we headed to Robust (227 West Lockwood Avenue, Webster Groves; 314-963-0033) in Old Webster for some guidance.
Robust is a restaurant, wine bar and retail shop. A big wooden bar topped with thousands of wine corks afloat in Lucite wraps around the center of the space, with tables to the left, booths to the right and a separate dining room to the rear, not to mention stainless-steel tables on the patio. Inside, owner Stanley Browne, a certified sommelier, shows us a picture of himself with devil horns and a fake mustache. "I became a wine devil," he says, referring to the "Pinot Camp" in Oregon he returned from less than 24 hours prior. "I got up, and first thing in the morning, we had mimosas and then off to one vineyard to try 30 wines, lunch, and then another vineyard and another 30 wines," Browne recounts.
It's tough to feel bad for Browne. Clearly this is a man who relishes his work.
So it doesn't seem like an imposition to ask the tired wine expert what to pair with the meat we're preparing to Maull.
He looks thoughtful for a entire second, then pulls a bottle of Peltier Station Hybrid Petite Sirah 2007 from an open case.
"This is a great wine and retails for $12, Browne says. "It's got 10 percent viognier and 15 percent syrah blended with petite sirah. The petite sirah and viognier really soften the wine, smooth it out. Let's taste it."
Oh, yes. Let's.
The wine pours a crystalline cherry red. We swirl, sniff, swirl some more. It smells like raspberry gummy bears.
The first sip is full of big, juicy cherry and blackberry flavors and finishes with just enough tannin to make you want another sip.
"It's not too spicy," Browne says. "It's the blend that really tones it down."
He's right. Even with a peppery barbecue sauce, the fruit in this blend will win out over the spice.
"And I think it would go well with Maull's," Browne pronounces.
Sold! Pork steaks here we come! And a happy Fourth of July weekend to all!