Pairing: Frei zinfandel a warm, spicy foil for ribs

Our Wine of the Week, Frei Brothers 2014 Reserve Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel ($20), is at once elegant and rustic, with restrained fruit and a soft, satiny mouthfeel, with slightly woolly tannins on the edge of the palate.

Fruit flavors run towards dark berries and black plums warmed by the sun, with threads of spice, especially allspice, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg, weaving through these flavors and blossoming during the wine’s long finish.

The alcohol level is just under ?15 percent, but the wine has none of the heat or suggestion of sweetness that higher alcohol wines typically possess. This wine has finesse, a bit of swagger, and an earthy foundation suggestive of a dry forest floor. Pay attention and you’ll notice little flare-ups of oak, coffee, licorice, and brambles.

The wine is lovely with mild blueberry chutney paired with slow-roasted pork, roasted root vegetables, root vegetable salads dressed with mild chili powder and fresh orange juice, venison stew, Provençal beef daube and casual foods like hamburgers cooked on the grill and classic American pizza.

But the wine’s true love, its soul mate, is ribs, including braised short ribs over creamy polenta, roasted beef ribs, and today’s dish, spareribs in a luscious, coffee-molasses marinade. The recipe is adapted from one in “Bruce Aidells’s Complete Book of Pork,” co-written by Aidells and Lisa Weiss (HarperCollins, 2004, $29.95).

Spareribs with ?Coffee-Molasses Marinade

Serves 6 to 8

2 slabs pork spareribs (St. Louis-style, if available) cut in half

- Kosher salt

- Black pepper in a mill

1 cup strong brewed coffee

1/2 cup mild molasses or B-grade maple syrup

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoons hot sauce, such as Crystal or Tabasco

1 large red onion, cut into small dice

3 scallions, trimmed and cut into very thin rounds

Set the ribs on a clean work surface and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Pour the coffee into a medium bowl, add molasses or syrup and the mustard and whisk until smooth. Add the vinegar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce and stir Again. Add the onions and scallions. Use a ladle to reserve 1 cup of the marinade.

Put the ribs into a large ziplock bag, pour in the remaining marinade, seal the bag, and massage it a bit to distribute the marinade evenly. Marinate, in the refrigerator, for at least 1 hour and as long as a day.

To finish, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Remove the ribs from the bag and set them, fat side up, on a racks set over baking sheets or sheet pans. Cook until the meat begins to pull away from the bone, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, basting with a bit of the reserved marinade a time or two during the last 15 or 20 minutes of cooking.

Pour the rest of the marinade into a small sauce pan, bring to a simmer, and cook for about 3 minutes. Pour into a serving bowl.

Remove from the oven, transfer to a serving platter, and enjoy right away, with the warmed marinade alongside.

Michele Anna Jordan is author of the new “Good Cook’s” series. Email her at and visit her

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