Pair It Up! Upper Bench Wines & Barbecue

I love this point in the summer, when farmer’s markets are right at that sweet spot with an abundance of fresh vegetables and fruit, and it seems like there’s more selection than ever. One thing we’ve been gorging ourselves on as of late around our house are fresh B.C. blueberries.

Now, there’s a bit of a caveat with this.

My wife owns a PR and communications company, and one of her clients is the B.C. Blueberry Council. One of the perks of her having this client, besides the wealth of blueberries we always have around, is that she works with them on recipe development. Every year, the council releases new recipes which include blueberries, from cocktails and salads to sauces and desserts, and occasionally I get to tag along when they do recipe testing. Trial and error has never been so fun.

I bring this up, because a popular recipe of theirs recently came to mind when I was tasting a wine that was new to me.

First, the wine:

Upper Bench 2013 Four Shadows Merlot ($30.50) comes from winemaker Gavin Miller’s Naramata, British Columbian winery, where he has been toiling his trade for the last few years after a long, successful run at nearby Poplar Grove Winery. This Merlot is a big, meaty one with dark cherry, dried plum, notes of blueberry compote, a hint of molasses, along with a little umami, sundried tomato character and a crack of clove. 18 months in French oak frames everything quite well.

My initial thought as I enjoyed the wine was that it would be such a great, juicy barbecue wine – and then it hit me. This wine is quite reminiscent of, and would go quite well with, the blueberry barbecue sauce we recently enjoyed with a half-rack of ribs. The easy-to-make sauce combines blueberries with garlic, shallots, brown sugar, honey, ketchup, Worcestershire, paprika and a few other bits and bobs that give it a delicious, robust character. While we enjoyed it with ribs, it’d be just as enjoyable with chicken, veggie burgers, and more – not to mention a perfect pairing alongside Upper Bench 2013 Four Shadows Merlot.

This is a good time to give the pairing a whirl, too – Upper Bench is currently offering free shipping with a minimum six-bottle order, and you can feel free to mix and match! So grab a couple Merlots, maybe throw in a couple grapefruit and rhubarb-laden 2015 Rosés, and round ‘em out with Upper Bench’s elegant and plummy 2013 Pinot Noir.

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 2015-Rose 800h upperbench_pinotnoir_2012NB

Kurtis Kolt is a Vancouver-based wine consultant, writer, competition judge and enthusiast. Track him down at, or on Twitter and Instagram @KurtisKolt.