Wines From the Rhone Valley meet Hawaii BBQ for a taste of Aloha

Lincoln, NE – The Rhone River Valley in Southern France is about as far from Hawaii as you can get, but I learned that the wines from there paired with Hawaiian Barbecue are a wonderful combination.

The Rhone is among France’s most famous wine regions. You can discover a wide variety of wines including red, white and rosé with unique and distinct varieties that can impress wine drinkers on their own or in blends. The North and the South wines have some distinct differences. I’ve observed more single variety wines in the North. They’re also a bit lower in alcohol due to cooler climate, but always with luscious flavors that are nuanced and complex. Some of the most interesting wines you can find. Wines in the Southern Rhone are equally as compelling, but you tend to see more blends. You can often find outstanding Rhone wines at great values because it’s a prolific growing area.

Food to pair with the Rhone wines is always a delight, for this tasting, I couldn’t t resist trying Howzit Hawaiian BBQ. It’s brand new and the food was delicious. I tried the “Braddah Combo”, which included Katsu Chicken, Kalba Short Ribs, and BBQ Chicken with tons of rice and macaroni salad on the side. The meats are generous cuts, tender, juicy, and flavorful. The Hawaiian flavors brought back memories of my time living in Hawaii, and the owners are laid back and friendly, just like I remember the people in Oahu. It’s worth a try. This is the kind of meal that is awesome to carry out and pair with wine!

For wine, I started with La Fiole Cotes du Rhone Rouge, 2019, Rhone, France, $13.99. The wine is garnet in the glass and has fragrant scents of sweet plum, spice and distinct cherry. On the palate, the wine is juicy with light tannins and gentle acidity. Flavors of red plum, warm earth and a subtle spice note. This wine is delicious and very approachable. 87 points

Next, I tried Philippe Viret “Energie”, 2021, Rhone, France, $25.00. The story behind this winery is as compelling as the wine in the glass. From the Southern Rhone, the owner of this winery uses no sulfur in the winemaking process. He also takes a very interesting approach to the entire wine-making process that he has patented as “Cosmoculture”. This process takes cues from the earth’s energy fields. Its mysterious, compelling, and really makes sense. The Philippe Viret “Energie” is primarily syrah with a small blend of several unique ancient varieties. The wine is deep purple in the glass. On the nose, it offers blackberry and an interesting earth note that dissipates. The wine is mouth-filling with a vibrant dark fruit core. It has rick black plum, forest floor and a hint of cigar leaf. The wine is funky, fun, and enjoyable. A true adventure in the glass. 90 points

The final wine I tried is Yves Cuilleron, Syrah “Les Vignes d’ a Cote”, 2021, Rhone, France, $23.00. This wine is from the Northern Rhone. It’s deep purple in the glass and has enticing notes of raspberry, black licorice, juicy black plum, and baker’s spice. It’s rich and full with expressive blackberry, boysenberry, and spice. The flavors of this wine are bold, intense, and generous, but at the same time smooth. This wine is a dream come true for rich and flavorful food dishes. 90 points

Pairing wine with the Hawaiian meats is a delight. Each of these wines brings out a different nuance from the food. My favorite wine match was the La Fiole Cote’s du Rhone Rouge. The wine is unpretentious and took on some of the flavors of the Asian spice that enhances the tender, juicy meats. It is one of those occasions where the combination of wine and food is even better than the two delicious components making it. Wine and food is an adventure. I often seek food and wine pairing that come from the same place, but it’s equally enjoyable to find harmony from completely different geographic areas. I can’t imagine two places more different than Hawaii and the Rhone Valley of France, yet the pairing is magic.

Mark McDonald and his wife Kim own The Italian Vine, a Lincoln-based wine distributorship.

For more information on these wines including where you can find them in Lincoln or Omaha.


The Italian Vine


5612 South  49th Street

Lincoln, Nebraska 68516