Now while some may argue that In-N-Out isn’t exactly fast, it is indeed convenient and that’s what unites "fast" foods. Since I was in Sonoma, I opted for a completely Sonoma-centric lineup this time around and limited myself to only five wines to pair with In-N-Out’s signature hamburgers: a straight burger, a Double-Double and the pièce de résistance, a Double-Double, Animal Style. What do you think my results looked like?
In honor of some of the wineries I visited, I included their wines in this trial. As always, let me remind you that I am not recommending specific wines with these dishes, but simply pointing out how certain styles of wines may work with (or clash with) the various dishes I try.
Todays lineup included:
2010 Dry Creek Fume Blanc: Unusual for a Fume in that it sees no oak, this is absolutely racy with intense gooseberry and chili character.
2009 Chateau St. Jean Chardonnay: A little leaner than your typical North Coast Chardonnay, this still pairs bright fruit with creamy oak-aged character.
2008 Kenwood Zinfandel: Nice and fresh with soft tannins and juicy sweet red fruits, this is styled like a classic table wine.
2007 Sebastiani Cabernet: Showing a bit more tannin than the Zin with darker, slightly denser fruit and a longer oak and tannin finish typical of young reds.
2007 Alexander Valley Vineyards Syrah: Opulent and soft, this Syrah shows a little spice and nice dry black fruit typical of the variety, finishing with a savory flourish.
There’s not much to say about the food. In-N-Out does few things, but they do them very well. Excellent fresh-cut fries (extra crispy for me), fresh beef, real cheese, nice crisp lettuce, plump tomato slices and the extra snap of raw onion make up the typical burger.
I also ordered one of the off-the-menu classics, the Animal Style Double-Double (two patties and two slices of cheese) that sees the burgers cooked with mustard and then topped with pickles, extra house spread and grilled onions. It’s a pleasure bomb so don’t over do it!
The burger, like most fast food burgers, is as much about the fixins' as it is the meat. Undoubtedly fresh tasting, the flavor is dominated by the sweetness from the bun and the slight twang of the house spread.
The Fume Blanc tended to overpower the whole shebang, coming on awfully strongly with its racy acidity.
The Cabernet was a bit much for the burger, its currant fruit really popped when served with the dish, and it took on quite a peppery edge.
The Syrah cut right through the burger and dominated the scene, though the fat from the burger really focused the wine and gets it to show its firm structure.
The Chardonnay actually worked quite well, showing an edge of sweetness that countered the sweetness of the bun and having more than enough fruit to handle the spread and vegetable notes.
The Zinfandel turned a little dry on the finish, but offered a really interesting interplay between its sweet fruit and the savory element of the dish. It was more fun than "good," but seems like the right match for the simple burger.
With a higher meat and cheese ratio than the single, this burger came across as beefier, richer and less overtly sweet.
The Fume Blanc remained a bit high strong for this pairing. It stands up surprisingly well to the weight of the burger but there’s something missing in the middle when paired with the Double-Double.
The Zinfandel paired well with the Double-Double but not as well as with the straight burger. It remains a fun pairing finishing with nice, pure fruit that’s an interesting contrast to the beef.
The Syrah, on the other hand, was still pretty overpowering, even in the face of all this beefy cheesiness. The textures work well but the flavors of the wine really dominate the pairing.