I've been really fortunate to travel to some amazing wine regions throughout Europe and the west coast of the US over the past fifteen years, but despite being a lifelong east-coaster I haven't put much effort into exploring the wineries that are much closer to home. I finally took a step towards correcting that this past week with a trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina to see John Wright and his team at Sanctuary Vineyards. To say I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of their wines would be a serious understatement.
Michael Maller of the newly-opened St. James (see also: Vin Rouge, Mateo, Mothers & Sons) in Durham clued me into Sanctuary Vineyards, and in particular their "Pearl" Albariño-based blend. That was a standout within the lineup, along with an extended skin contact Viognier that I wish other orange wine producers would take a cue from. Their Cabernet Franc hit a sweet spot for me; not as vegetal as the Loire Valley can get, not as ripe as California can get...it reminded me of Cab Franc from the Collio region of northern Italy. But really, this whole lineup deserves a closer look from anyone that has even a passing interest in finding some standout North Carolina/east coast wines.
The wines I tasted inspired me to breathe some new life into a one-off North Carolina VinoBurger recipe I worked up a few years back. Check out the recipe below, inspired by good ol' pulled pork BBQ, and know that you can make numerous substitutions (including store-bought cole slaw and spice rub) to suit your tastes or cut down on the prep work.
North Carolina VinoBurger, Eastern Carolina-style
Yields 4 servings
- 1 1/2 lbs ground pork
- 2 ribs celery, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/4 head cabbage, shredded/thinly sliced (about two cups, lightly packed)
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon white sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Ground black pepper to taste
- 4 teaspoons paprika
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 burger buns
- Pimento cheese (store-bought from Parker & Otis)
- Pickled red onion (store-bought)
- Optional: Include an additional local cheese. I used the Lissome, a washed rind cow's milk cheese similar to Tallegio, made by Boxcarr Farms
SIDE DISH: Baked Sweet Potato Chips
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, thinly sliced
- Olive oil to coat, about 1 tablespoon
- Prepare cole slaw: Combine shredded cabbage, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Toss to dress the cabbage, then set aside.
- Make spice rub: Combine all spices in a bowl, stir thoroughly, then set side
- Prep sweet potatoes: Using a mandolin or knife, cut sweet potatoes into very thin slices, about 1/16" thick. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and toss with just enough olive oil to lightly coat. Set aside.
- Prep burgers: In a large mixing bowl, gently combine the pork, celery and garlic. Form into four patties. I made mine with eight smaller patties.
- Gather all burger toppings and set aside.
- Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Place sweet potato slices on one or two baking sheets in a single layer, then sprinkle lightly with salt. Place in oven and cook 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. Rotate pans and flip chips as needed.
- Pre-heat cast iron pan over medium heat. Liberally sprinkle one side of each burger with the spice rub. Lightly drizzle pan with cooking oil, about a teaspoon, then place burgers spice side down. Cook first side until spice mix has blackened slightly and turned into a nice crust. Flip burgers and finish cooking on the un-seasoned side, total cook time about eight minutes.
- Assemble burgers with cole slaw, pimento cheese, pickled red onion and (optional) additional cheese in between patties or on top of single patty. Serve along side sweet potato chips.