Regan Jasper, at the age of 24, became one of the youngest Sommeliers in Arizona. Racking up Wine Spectator Awards at Fuego restaurant and Hacienda del Sol resort, Jasper’s accomplishments caught Sam Fox’s attention. In 1999, Fox wooed him to FRC with the promise of creative freedom in developing and managing the beverage and hospitality programs for every restaurant.
Jasper quickly demonstrated his exceptional expertise beyond the wine and beverage realm and today is responsible for wine and beverage programs for all Fox restaurants.
With the success of Fox Restaurants and Zinburger, we had the chance recently to ask Regan some questions regarding wine, burgers, and the restaurant industry.
1) What do you look for in a wine and food pairing?
In general, I like to have the wine complement the food. The wine should have some acidity to help the protein stand out. If we are talking about Zinburger and pairing wines with burgers, well... that is some of the easiest pairings around! First, I'm going to answer a question with a question… why do so many people like to have wine and cheese parties? Because the fats in cheese make every wine show nicely. Now, back to the question regarding pairing wine with food - if you have a large amount of rich fats, like a hamburger and cheese does, then any wine will pair well. Big red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel will not overpower the food.
2) Is there a white wine you like with red meat?
White wine with red meat is not a natural pairing so I would say no. But if you don’t drink red wine I would tell you to choose a rich full bodied Chardonnay rather than a high acid light weight wine like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. And if the red meat is spicy hot than I would suggest a wine with some sweetness like our Riesling or Caymus Conundrum.
3) With the subtle complexity of some of the burgers featured, does the wine need to be equally complex, or much simpler?
Needs? No. But it can be. And that’s what’s so great about pairing wine with food. The earth tones you get from the mushrooms on the kobe burger pair great with red wines with a little more old world edge to them like the Sangeovese from Santa Christina, and the Newton Claret. The salty flavor that you get from the Nueske’s Applewood Smoked Bacon on the Samburger begs for a riper and richer style of red wine like Gascon Reserve Malbec or Manifesto Zinfandel. The onions reduced in red Zinfandel on the Zinburger are a natural pairing for a soft supple red wine like the Hey Mambo Sultry Red or the Tobin James Zinfandel. The turkey burger on the other hand pairs nicely with Chardonnay and my favorite Truchard Fox Block 7 Pinot Noir.
4) Now that Zinburger is in New Jersey and finding success, what direction would you like to see it go in?
I don’t think that this is a regional concept. I feel like we can open this concept in just about any market and it will do fantastic. So, the future is bright for Zinburger!
5) Any comments on the general industry push towards more and more casual and less and less fine dining?
I hope that our economy recovers and I hope that consumer confidence grows back to where it was just a couple of years ago. I feel fortunate that our company has some diversity in the different dining segments. It helps to have some more casual driving brands mixed in with our full service higher priced point spots.
Regan Jasper is FOX Restaurant's Advanced Sommelier.