Pairing Off Veggie Burger

Climbing Mount Everest is comparatively easy. The success rate for the thousands who have made the attempt is around 60 percent, after all.

But go ahead—knock it off your bucket list. And then come down from the clouds and try to conquer something with a greater degree of difficulty: pairing wine with a veggie burger.

OK, so there are no fitness requirements, no serious risk of peril. But the veggie burger presents a different series of challenges. And the experts agree…well, maybe not with the Mount Everest comparison, but with the possibility of coming up short.

“That’s a hard one,” says Scott Kuramura of Taste of Monterey on Cannery Row. “Everyone’s style is so different with the patty.”

Veggie burger can be a diverse and even misleading term, after all. Yes, the patty can be formed from zucchini or beets, cauliflower, peas or some combination of things green. But there are burgers based on mushrooms, tofu, grains and all manner of beans. 

There are also processed foods of the “plant based” variety and that ever so desirable textured vegetable protein. Where do you start?

For Kuramura that means just thinking of a burger. And that’s where many people would lean toward a red.

“But I like something acidic,” he points out.

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Getting into specifics, the sandwich in question is Wave Street Cafe’s black bean burger. It comes loaded with a chipotle aioli, caramelized onions, pepper jack cheese and an array of condiments.

It’s a weighty monster notable for a low and slow smoky burn, countered by an earthy sweetness from the onions. The burger also requires care, as the black bean patty can be a bit unstable.

The burger also presents a couple of unique challenges: heat and smoke.

“If it’s more smoky, I’d go red—a Pinot Noir,” Kuramura says. “If it’s heartier, a Zinfandel. “But if it’s more spicy, I might go white.”

He decided the latter option might reach the veggie burger summit, a 2019 unoaked Chardonnay from EX, a new release from Wrath Wines. 

The bouquet is distinctly tropical, with impressions of pineapple and guava. On the palate it offers the same and more—a sharp apple, a bright squirt of citrus and a surprising richness that develops from gentle, earthy banana to dried apricot on the finish.

The acidity shears through all of the layers in the burger. At the same time, it sparks a little more spice from the sandwich, holding up very well. It may not find kinship with everything between the bun, but that was Kuramura’s intent.

“You can complement or contrast,” he explains. “I tend to lean more towards contrast.”

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