Finding out what wine with... In-N-Out!

Living the Fast Life in Sonoma


During my visit to Sonoma this year (when I raced up and down the county on #CabernetDay as a kick-off to our own GTiCabernet, as well as spent the better part of a week visiting wineries and grabbing some great interviews during the Visa Sonoma Wine Weekend), I also made time to add another, regional, chapter to my fast food and wine series.

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?

The Wines

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.

The Food

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 Hamburger

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 Winners

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.

The Double-Double

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.

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  • Snooth User: EMark
    Hand of Snooth
    847804 10,504

    Fun piece.

    It's a dirty job, but I guess somebody's got to do it.

    Personally, my favorite pick for a double-double with fries is a vanilla shake. I guess I'm just an old dog with no new tricks in him.

    However, filling up with that lunch would prepare me quite well for tasting room visits afterword.

    Sep 12, 2011 at 2:27 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 236,848

    Write your comment here.I had the vanilla shake on a second visits, sitting outside in the shade of an umbrella surrounded by a local high school cheering squad. It was a perfect setting and nothing would have gone better with it than the shake!

    Sep 12, 2011 at 2:39 PM

  • Snooth User: audreyvp
    856019 0

    Mmmm, I think I nice Zin would be the perfect complement to an in-n-out cheeseburger with onions!

    Sep 12, 2011 at 3:51 PM

  • Snooth User: napagirl68
    Hand of Snooth
    87843 2,860

    Whenever I resort to "fast food" in the Sonoma area, I always end up at Mary's Pizza Shack. Love their pizza, and yes, I even pair it with my fav. RRV pinots!

    Sep 12, 2011 at 10:21 PM

  • Snooth User: Richard Foxall
    Hand of Snooth
    262583 4,003

    What a coincidence, NG--our really good friend's daughter used to be the chief cook/chef at Mary's. We were at her sister's wedding this weekend, and she still cooks up a storm. But Mary's is definitely a notch above typical pizza, and not really fast food. For burgers, Zin or Bordeaux, but a shake is good in the middle of the day. For pizza, I'm more ecumenical, but a nice Salice Salentino or Barbera works nicely.

    Sep 13, 2011 at 12:57 AM

  • Mmmm. I have often considered moving back to California just for In and Out. I can't wait to try some of these pairings, though it will cost me at least one plane ticket.

    Sep 13, 2011 at 10:43 AM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 236,848

    It's worth it, but that plane ticket can also be to Vegas! In all honesty I stop at in-n-out twice on almost every California trip. Love the burgers, but I stick with a double-double and two orders of fries, one regular and one well done, then mix the two. I like the well done but they can be a little dry.

    Sep 13, 2011 at 11:42 AM

  • GDP, I have eaten at In and Out in Vegas, Phoenix, all over California, and most recently, at the brand new location in Allen, TX while visiting my sister. (Allen is a Dallas suburb.) I always get a cheeseburger animal style, fries, and a chocolate shake. On my last trip, I was able to treat my 16 year old stepson to the wonder that is In and Out. He used to tease me for talking about it all the time. After half of a burger he looked at me and said, "I get it now."

    Sep 13, 2011 at 3:35 PM

  • Snooth User: EMark
    Hand of Snooth
    847804 10,504

    I'll also endorse Mary's. We tried it last June. In fact we did it twice--we took out a pizza for our hotel room one night, and had a plate of pasta in their dining room one night. Good food. And very reasonably priced.

    Sep 13, 2011 at 8:03 PM

  • One of my favorites is just the fries animal style. It went really well with a Somona coast Pinot

    Oct 22, 2012 at 2:06 PM

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