Note: JLH v1 is back with another guest post! 🙂 Let’s show him the love he deserves~

A few weeks back Jacquie sent me a link for a Columbia Crest recipe contest. All that was required of participants was to use a Washington State ingredient in a dish that could be paired with one of their wines. I debated between starting with either a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Shiraz since I love red wines, but once I settled on blackberries as the star of the dish, I knew the spiciness of the Shiraz was the way to go.

If you’re curious, the prize is a 3 day/4 night trip for two to New York City (including air fare and hotel accommodations), a dinner at one of Bobby Flay’s restaurants, and a chance to prepare your meal with him. The fact that Bobby’s the sponsor may or may not be a good thing because my recipe is based on a technique out of his Mesa Grill Cookbook. Several months ago I made his Peanut Chipotle Ribs but didn’t write about them and even though they tasted good enough to warrant a post, they weren’t my finest (or last) effort so I decided against it. The baste I made turned out too thick but the cooking technique was great so I applied it to my recipe below, but this time I kept my baste thinner.

My recipe below seems complicated because of the laundry list of ingredients but it’s really just a few sauce fundamentals. Most of my sauces start with the basics – oil, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper – and vary from there depending on what the sauce is for. I knew I was using blackberries and Shiraz for the base, but I wanted to make it a little more rib appropriate; thus the molasses, honey, vinegar, mustard, brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce were next in the pot. If you hadn’t already guessed, those ingredients plus a tomato product make up a standard BBQ sauce. To get the tomato flavor but keep it unique I used sun-dried tomato halves instead of the commonly used ketchup. I considered adding some heat to go along with the sweet and sour of the sauce, but I knew the chili rub would take care of balancing the dish in its entirety.

Btw, I’m hoping that if I win they’ll just give me a helicopter ride to the city as a substitute for air fare and hotel. Heck, they can even throw in another dinner if they want, but mostly I want to throwdown with Bobby Flay, mostly.

Blackberry Ribs (1 lb pork spare ribs)

Chili Rub

Remove the stems from 3 dried ancho chiles, 4 dried guajillo chiles, and 4 dried cascabel chiles. Dice them up and toast in a cast iron skillet over medium/low heat for about 1-2 minutes. Don’t let them burn; the smoke they create is killer on the eyes and lungs. Thrown everything into a spice grinder and presto, you have an au natural chile rub.

**Note: for this recipe, stop there for the chili rub. However, if you have some leftover (and I did) you can make a homemade chili powder. All you have to do is add some dried oregano, cumin and paprika. I don’t add salt or pepper because I prefer to salt/pepper my food as I cook it since different dishes require different amounts. Also, you can add onion and garlic powder if you want but since I usually cook with the fresh versions, I left that out as well. I really don’t know the ratios to be honest, but basically if you combine the cumin/paprika/oregano separately but in equal proportions, it should be about the same amount as all the chili rub. Not sure if that made sense…

Dry Rub

1 tsp cumin
1-2 tablespoons chile mix (recipe above)

Liberally salt and pepper the ribs all over. Next, rub about 1 tsp of cumin on the top of the ribs. Then rub in a good portion of the chile mix to the top of the rack. You want to get a nice thick coating. You can rub into the bottom too but be sure to sear that side as well (later steps). Cover the ribs and let sit in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight.


1 tsp olive oil
1/3 bottle Columbia Crest Grand Estates Shiraz
12 oz fresh blackberries
¼ medium red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp kosher salt
1.5 tbsp honey
1 tbsp molasses
1.5 tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 halves of sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp yellow mustard
2 tbsp brown sugar

½ cup of Columbia Crest Grand Estates Shiraz
2-3 cups of water
¼ cup of fresh chopped ginger

Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a medium size saucepan. Toss in the red onions and garlic and sweat the onions slightly (do not caramelize). Add 1/3 bottle Columbia Crest Grand Estates Shiraz and the blackberries. Simmer for 10-15 minutes and then mash the blackberries a bit with the back of a wooden spoon. Simmer for about 5-10 minutes longer (make sure the baste doesn’t reduce too much and become thick. It’s a baste, not a paste).

Remove the sauce from the heat and discard about ½ of the blackberries. Add the remaining mixture to a blender and blend until smooth.

Return the sauce to the sauce pan and add the rest of the ingredients up to brown sugar. You can go ahead and preheat the oven to 500 degrees now. Let simmer again for another 5-10 minutes for the flavors to meld then add back to the blender to puree again. It should be thin enough to pour in a steady stream. Mine was the right consistency but if you find yours too thick, add a little water to thin it out for basting.

Cooking Ribs

If you haven’t already, preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Add oil to a roasting pan large enough to fit the entire rack and warm over medium-high heat. Sear the top of the ribs (or each side if you added dry rub to both sides) for about 5 minutes until the crust is nicely browned. Remove the ribs and most of the oil, add in the remaining three ingredients (2-3 cups of water, ½ cup of the Columbia Crest Grand Estates Shiraz and the ginger). Set the roasting rack into the pan and place the ribs on top so they remain above the liquids in the roasting pan. Carefully place the ribs in the oven on the lowest rack (basting before you begin) and then baste every 15 minutes. The ribs should cook in about an hour to an hour and a half. A meat thermometer should register 175 degrees since these are pork ribs.

Take them out when they are done and then let them rest for about 10 minutes. Carve and enjoy!