Atlas Peak Cabernet Franc and Pickled Watermelon Rind?

In the quest for pioneering food and wine pairings, the aim is often to stretch beyond the ordinary to the extraordinary, exploring combinations that can surprise and delight the palate. The pairing of an Atlas Peak Cabernet Franc with pickled watermelon rind ventures into uncharted territory, challenging conventional pairing wisdom. This exploration dives deep into the intrinsic properties of both the wine and the food, investigating how their unique characteristics can complement and enhance one another.

A bottle of Reynolds Family Winery 2019 Due Diligence was used as a reference in this exercise.

The Atlas Peak Cabernet Franc

Atlas Peak, the southernmost link in Napa Valley’s Vaca chain, presents a viticultural canvas marked by its austere mountains, volcanic soils, and a climate moderated by proximity to the San Pablo Bay . The area's Cabernet Franc benefits from this distinct terroir, yielding wines of pronounced acidity and balance, attributable to the significant diurnal temperature variations and the area's volcanic, porous soil that cools quickly despite abundant sunlight. These Cabernet Francs are noted for their structured tannins, vibrant fruitiness, and an undercurrent of spice and herbaceous notes, characteristics that will play a pivotal role in the pairing.

Pickled Watermelon Rind: An Overlooked Delicacy

The pickled watermelon rind, often discarded as waste, represents a fusion of sweet, sour, and aromatic flavors, with a crunchy texture that adds a unique dimension to culinary applications. The pickling process introduces vinegar and sugar, along with spices like clove, cinnamon, and sometimes star anise, transforming the rind into a complex condiment or snack that juxtaposes sweetness against acidity, with a subtle backdrop of warm spices.

The Theorycraft Behind the Pairing

The unconventional pairing of Atlas Peak Cabernet Franc with pickled watermelon rind is founded on a harmony of contrasts and complements. The wine’s vibrant acidity and structured tannins offer a counterpoint to the sweet and sour nature of the pickled rind. The inherent spiciness of the Cabernet Franc, reminiscent of green bell pepper and black pepper, meshes with the aromatic spices of the pickling brine, creating a sensory bridge that ties the wine and food together.

Analyzing the Components

  1. Acidity and Sweetness: The crisp acidity of the Cabernet Franc cuts through the sweetness of the pickled rind, refreshing the palate and highlighting the wine’s fruit characteristics.
  2. Tannins and Texture: The firm tannins of the wine are softened by the food’s acidity and sweetness, making the wine seem smoother and more rounded, while the crunchy texture of the rind adds a tactile dimension that complements the wine’s body.
  3. Aromatic Spices and Herbaceous Notes: The spiced notes of the pickled watermelon rind resonate with the Cabernet Franc’s inherent herbaceous and spicy qualities, creating a harmonious flavor profile that is greater than the sum of its parts.

The Culinary and Sensory Experience

This pairing invites a sensory exploration that is as much about texture and aroma as it is about taste. The initial contrast between the wine’s acidity and the rind’s sweetness evolves into a complex interplay of flavors where spice, fruit, and herbal notes dance on the palate. The experience is akin to a culinary symphony, where each component is carefully orchestrated to contribute to an immersive and memorable tasting experience.


The pairing of an Atlas Peak Cabernet Franc with pickled watermelon rind stands as a testament to the potential that lies in unconventional pairings. It challenges the palate and the mind to reconsider preconceived notions of what food and wine can be together. This pairing is not just a novelty; it is a deliberate and thoughtful exploration of flavor, texture, and aroma, showcasing how the principles of contrast and complement can yield a pairing that is both innovative and harmonious. As such, it serves as an inspiration for further culinary experimentation, encouraging a departure from the familiar towards the discovery of new sensory landscapes.