On our way to get takeout from our favorite rib place we stopped off for a bottle of our favorite barbecue wine, Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel (the 2006 vintage is about $11 at supermarkets and big-box liquor stores). As we waited to check out, the woman next to us in line read the label on our bottle and laughed.
"They sure come up with some crazy names these days!"
They certainly do, some unsuitable for citing in a family newspaper. This one actually means something, though, at least to the vintners at Gnarly Head Cellars of Lodi, Calif., the world capital of zin. Old zinfandel grape vines (some as old as 80), which tend to yield smaller harvests of more intensely flavored fruit, have twisted central trunks with gnarled heads from which the bearing tendrils sprout. For a surfer, it was a short jump from there to gnarly head.
This old-vines zin has been a favorite with us since it was introduced a few short years ago, because it drinks well all on its own and pairs easily with a wide range of spicy, smoky and similarly muscular foods, like pulled pork 'cue or ribs, Thai curries or buffalo wings.
By Colette and John Bancroft. Colette Bancroft is the Times' book editor. John Bancroft is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel.