tritip

When The Steak On Your Plate Is The Same Shape As The Region The Wine In Your Glass Came From

Oh, California. We seem to do all kinds of crazy things with our food out West. Like put avocados on hamburgers and cut a triangular chunk out of the bottom sirloin of a cattle and call it a tri-tip. For those of you on the East Coast, allow us to explain: It’s sort of like a cross between a steak and a roast and perfect for people who have things like yards and Weber grills — Californians, in other words. The tri-tip cut sits right on the dividing line between the leg and drop-loin primals — a triangle wedged between top sirloin, sirloin tip and sirloin flap. The tri-tip of California is north of Marin, south of Mendocino (bordering on Anderson Valley) and wedged between Napa Valley and the Pacific Ocean.

And this Memorial Day Weekend, the tri-tip (from the cow not California) will be seared, then cooked slow and low, roast-style; sliced and piled high. Originally called the Santa Maria Steak after its Central Valley place of origin, the affordable tri-tip can be found in just about every butcher case and on every menu from Tahoe to Topanga Canyon — a fact which, having discovered it, makes the Napa butcher’s only response to your question “what is a tri-tip?” — a chuckle and a “You from the East?” — understandable.

But the cleverness doesn’t stop there. Oh no, this is wine country — California produces some 90 percent of the country’s vino, after all — and what goes better with steak than red wine? How about a red wine from a wine region that is actually shaped like a steak? Yes, folks, the AVA designated grape-growing and wine-making appellation of Sonoma County is in fact referred to as the tri-tip of California, as we were told recently by Honore Comfort, the director of the Sonoma County Vintners Association.

It was here that Russian fur traders first planted wine grapes in the mid-1800s in the aptly named Russian River Valley and where, among the 60 miles of foggy coastline, 44 varietals of red grapes grow. Will a Sonoma Syrah pair well with a grilled tri on account of 2,000 of the 1 million acres of Sonoma County are planted to the savory, peppery varietal? We think it sounds like a plan for the weekend.