Chillin with Chili and Pairing wine

Best Spicy Chili and Wine Pairing

Best Spicy Chili and Wine Pairing

I have been on a quest to find really good chili for quite some time. I remember, as a child, my mom made a decent chili, but nothing to brag about.  Friends would rant and rave about their secret recipes, but never seemed to produce anything of quality. I’m not a chili afficionado, mind you, I just wanted something other than Sloppy Joes and Hot Sauce. Thankfully, my friend Karen, came through with her award winning chili recipe, which I’ll cook for you in the below video. It’s meaty, spicy, flavorful, and goes well with a host of wines.

Chillin with Chili and Pairing wine from Matthew Scott Horbund on Vimeo.

As far as I know, the recipe for this chili only exists here, and in Karen’s home. I don’t think her blog, GeoFooding, even lists it. Therefore, I’m honored to have the pleasure of sharing it with you. The recipe is rather involved, and takes a tad of work. The video is 13 minutes long, but tries to cover all of the steps taken to make this great dish. And of course, at the end, we talk wine.

There are many wines that could have been paired with this chili. Robin wished I went with a Riesling, similar to my Wine and Wings pairing, to cut the spice. She felt the fruit and slight sweetness would have been a welcome offset to the heat in the chili.  And you may have noticed I mentioned Twisted Oak in the video. While I confused The Spaniard’s Tempranillo with Grenache, I think it would have been a welcome wine pairing. The earthy, peppery flavors would really kick the chili up a notch! I selected a more round, fruit driven red wine, however, to pair with this spicy dish. I’m sure Jeff would call me a wimp!

Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel 2008

Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel 2008

Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel is a wine that I’ve discussed previously. It’s an easy drinking, fruit driven wine that is made from vines that range in age from 80 to 100 years old.  These vines produce a grape that has a very concentrated flavor, and offers a taste of plums and raisins, along with nice berry flavors. The high alcohol, 15%, doesn’t impact the flavors of the chili, and the wine compliments it nicely.

If you make this recipe, I’d love to know what you think! Did you kick up the heat a bit with some Cabot Jalepeno or Hot Habenero Cheese? Or did you just go with the Seriously Sharp Cheddar, because the chili was already smokin?  Leave a comment below! And without further ado…

Karen’s Amazing Chili Recipe

The International Chili Society prohibits beans, rice or pasta in chili.  If you want beans, I use black beans cooked separately and mixed in at the end.  Slow cook them with smoky bacon.

4 slices, smoky bacon, finely chopped

1 lb fresh ground chuck

½ lb ground pork

½ lb ground lamb

1 medium yellow onion, finely diced

4 cloves garlic minced

2 roasted, peeled poblano chilis, diced (I removed the seeds!)

1 small (2.6-3 oz) can chipotle peppers w/adobo sauce, minced

1 bell pepper roasted, peeled and seeded, diced

2 16 oz cans diced or stewed tomatoes, chopped

1 8oz can v-8 juice

2 tsp epazote or oregano

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp chili powder

½ tsp ground coriander seed

½ tsp smoked paprika

½ tsp ground fennel seed

3 dashes Worcestershire sauce

1 cup dry sherry (not cooking Sherry, go to a store like Total Wine and buy dry sherry)

1 bunch chopped cilantro

½ carrot grated (optional)


In a large pot, brown meats, over medium heat, together until it has a nice brown color.  Pour off any accumulated fat and return to heat.  Add diced onion and garlic and stir until onion is translucent being careful not to burn the garlic.  If garlic starts to brown turn the heat down. Burnt garlic will ruin the dish and there is no saving it after that!

Add sherry and simmer until it is reduced by 1/3rd.  Turn heat to low and add spices, stir well and simmer for about 5 minutes so the meat can absorb some of the spice flavor.  Add all peppers and stir well.  Add, tomatoes, worcestershire sauce and ½ of the v-8 juice.  If you don’t want a very spicy chili, add the shredded carrot at this point to add sweetness.

Simmer, partially covered over low heat, stirring occasionally for about 2 hours to fully develop flavors. Tomatoes should practically be disintegrated.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, keeping in mind that the V-8 will add salt and the mixture will become saltier and spicier as it cooks down. Add V-8 juice as needed to keep the mixture moist. Stir in cilantro at the end, reserving some for garnish.

Mix with beans of serve over rice, top with shredded cheddar cheese (I like the Cabot habanera or jalapeño), cilantro and sour cream if desired.  It is also nice with a spoonful of queso fresco instead of the cheese and sour cream.

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11 thoughts on “Chillin with Chili and Pairing wine

  1. Nice, I like to see the attention to wine & chili pairing–good timing w the SuperBowl coming up! I gravitate toward zin for chili generally but I can see a grenache doing well too.

  2. Thanks David! In the video, I did pair the Zinfandel with the Chili. However, I made mention of the Tempranillo and Granache as hommage to my friends at Twisted Oak Winery in Murphy’s CA!

  3. hi Matt – No worries on The Spaniard mixup! Your chili looks yummy and I am definitely going to have to try it. A couple of thoughts – I usually add the garlic after the onion is almost done to avoid the garlic burning issues. And, I like to add the dry spices to the meat before adding the liquids – it has the effect of toasting the spices a little and I think really brings out the flavor. Cheers!

  4. Thank you Jeff! The chili really is awesome! And I like your suggestions regarding changing up the cooking a little. We’re planning on making this for a family get together in a few weeks, and I’ll try your ideas!

    I’m not an expert, so perhaps on my next visit to Twisted Oak Winery, you can make a pot, pop a cork or two of The Spaniard, and show me how they do it in Murphy!

  5. I can’t wait to try this recipe. I love fennel and cilantro and don’t think I’ve had them in a chili before. Have you tried letting the roasted peppers steam in a ziploc bag after they come out of the oven? Take them out of the bag and the skins just fall off! Great work, I look forward to making this at home!

  6. Joel – Thanks for the great advice with the peppers. That was one of the methods I read about regarding roasted peppers, but didn’t try it. I really enjoyed the chili, and know you are a connoisseur, so perhaps we’ll put together a little chili event with beer and wine pairings!

  7. I tried some Zinfandel with my chili the other day. In my opinion, the spices of the chili really brought out the acidity of the wine, which I did not care for that much. I had the rest of the Zin with some pizza, which was phenomenal, brought out the fruitiness. I think I’d try your friend’s suggestion of a Riesling with the chili the next time. I really enjoy your blog!

  8. Tina,
    Thanks SO much for your comment. I was very careful which Zinfandel I selected for the chili. I went with an “Old Vines” Zin that is a very round, fruity Zinfandel, one that doesn’t have an acidic finish. I never would have put this chili with, say, Titus Zinfandel, because it would just fight with the wine the whole way. However, you definitely illustrate a good point, that the same grape can taste different, and interact differently, depending on the producer!

    I am actually making this chili again Saturday, and will be bringing a few different wines, and beers, this time. I’m going to have the Dr Loosen Dr L with it for sure, which has a good bit of fruit and residual sugar that should work nicely with the spices in the Chili. I may try to find a Tempranillo as well, and see how that goes!

    Cheers, and thanks for the compliments!

  9. I think Tempranillo would work with a milder chili for sure. I don’t know about Grenache…the alcohol and the spice might clash. The Cline “Ancient Vines” Zin is always a great choice at that price point. Zinfandel always seems to be the “tailgate” wine: good with chili, BBQ, pizza, burgers, etc.

    I LOVE the “art & science” of pairing. Keep up the great work! Joe @suburbanwino

  10. Joe,
    I appreciate your input and ideas. I especially like the idea of a Gewurzt or Sparkling Shiraz. I have some Elena Walch Gewurztraminer at the house, and may use it as one of my selections when I make the chili this weekend.

  11. Thank you Matt for the Chili video and I do like your Gewurztraminer suggestion. Coming from Europe I have enjoyed many great wines from Germany & Austria, but never tasted Elena Walch’s Gewurztraminer. How was It?

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