Perfect Pairings | Sky Vineyards Wine + Chipotle Black Bean Burger

Perfect Pairings | Sky Vineyards Wine + Chipotle Black Bean Burger

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Lore Olds is the wild man founder of Sky Vineyards.Olds has two badass daughters, Mayacamas and Skyla. Named after the mountain range in which they grew up, Mayacamas’s career has progressed from high school dropout to a degree in fermentation science from UC Davis and an MBA in sustainable corporate management. She has gone on to hold numerous notable positions, such as Head of Viticulture at Newton Vineyard and General Manager of Gloria Ferrer. Skyla, for her part, is no less successful, having practiced public interest law by way of NYU Law School and Wellesley. Today, they both operate Sky Vineyards, the tiny 14-acre boutique estate founded by their father in 1973 on Mount Veeder at 2,100 feet of elevation. Completely off the grid with only a couple solar panels and a small generator, Sky has been called a vineyard from another era. It almost goes without saying that vineyard work is organic here, dry farming, permanent cover crops, and the like. Harvest and all of the winemaking is done by hand as well. Of the original 14 acres, approximately 12 were planted to Zinfandel and two to Syrah. I use the past tense because part of the vineyard has been replanted due to the phylloxera louse and part was burned in the California wine country fires of 2017. The Olds also lost the original house on the estate and all of their library wines in this fire (they had diligently held onto 10 cases from every harvest).

If Sky is a vineyard from another era, so too are the wines. This month, I’d like to recommend to you their 2016 Zinfandel ($50). Between the mountain vineyard and their hands-off approach, this will surely be unlike any Zinfandel you’ve previously experienced. No jammy rasinated fruit or high alcohol burn here. Instead, expect notes of wild brambly red fruits, cracked pepper and violets with soulful chewy tannins, a medium plus body and long lifted finish. To pair, I’m recommending a chipotle black bean burger devised by the ever-brilliant J. Kenji Lopez-Alt by way of Serious Eats. Zinfandel loves smoky, grilled flavors, which this delivers even without the grill. It is just the thing if, like myself, you want to be a little less indulgent after the holiday season. I recommend making the bean mixture the night before to deliver a speedy, satisfying weeknight meal.

Other recommendations: 2018 Green & Red Chiles Mill Zinfandel ($41), 2020 Birichino Saint Geoges Zinfandel Old Vines ($30) and 2016 Easton Amador County Zinfandel ($24).



2 (15-ounce) cans of black beans, rinsed and drained

4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)

1 large poblano pepper, finely chopped (about 1 cup)

3 medium cloves garlic, minced

1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce, finely chopped, plus 1 teaspoon sauce

3/4 cup roasted cashews

1/2 cup finely crumbled feta or cotija cheese

3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

1 large egg

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Cheese for topping, such as pepper jack, cheddar, muenster or Swiss (optional)

6 to 8 hearty hamburger buns, toasted

Condiments as desired, such as chipotle mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard or mayonnaise

Toppings as desired, such as shredded lettuce, sliced onions and pickles


Adjust the oven rack to its center position and preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Spread the black beans in a single layer on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Roast the beans until they are mostly split open and their outer skins get crunchy (about 20 minutes). Remove the beans from the oven and allow them to cool slightly.

While the beans roast, heat two tablespoons of oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and poblano and cook, stirring frequently, until softened (about five minutes). Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant (about two minutes). Add chipotle chili and sauce and cook, stirring until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

Place the cashews in a food processor and pulse until chopped into pieces no larger than 1/3-inch (about 12 short pulses). Add the chopped cashews to the bowl with onions and peppers.

When beans are slightly cooled, transfer them to the food processor. Add cheese. Pulse until the beans are roughly chopped (the largest pieces should be about 1/3 of a full bean in size). Transfer the chopped beans to the bowl with the onion/pepper mixture. Add breadcrumbs, egg and mayonnaise and season with salt and pepper. Fold together gently, but thoroughly with hands. The patty mixture can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days at this stage.


Form the bean mixture into six to eight patties as wide as the burger buns. Heat one tablespoon of oil in a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add four patties and cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the patties are well-browned and crisp on the first side (about five minutes). Carefully flip and cook the patties until their second sides are browned (about five minutes longer), adding cheese, if desired. Alternatively, the patties can be grilled.

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