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1201 Raleigh Rd
Chapel Hill, NC 27517
USA

(919) 960-0555

Jujube is a modern asian fusion restaurant and memorable dining experience in Chapel Hill, NC. Our cuisine is rooted in the flavors of China and Vietnam, distilled and whimsically refined with western sensibilities. Part of creating an inspired dining experience is getting out of the way and allowing tradition and the beauty of nature to show through, and part of it is putting your individual stamp on each dish. Jujube does both by weaving classic Asian dishes along with one-of-a-kind creations born from our hearts into one, eclectic menu.

Stories

Wine with marshmallows? Pairing the right wine for your Thanksgiving feast

Chrissy Deal

For some, it’s an annual dilemma:  the Thanksgiving feast is just around the corner but you still don’t know which wine to serve. If you were just pairing with the bird, it would be easy. But think about your typical Thanksgiving table: cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes (maybe even with marshmallows), candied pecan garnishes… Half the traditional Thanksgiving sides tend to have in common one particular challenge to choosing a wine: sweetness.

As it turns out, here at Jujube we face the same challenge every single day.  

Asian food, like holiday fare, is often heavier on the sugar content than our everyday meals. One of the ways we’ve made our food “fusion” is to actually back off somewhat on the sugar, which makes it more wine-friendly.  However, we can’t eliminate the sweetness entirely without failing to capture the essence of the food that inspires us.  Take our Jujube Bolognese, for instance.  The hoisin that makes it so delicious also makes it a bit sweet.  And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

So how do we curate a wine list that works with our food, and how can we apply that to your Thanksgiving table? I’ll tell you -- first, it helps to understand what sweetness in wine does to sweetness in food.

The wine “intelligencia” realized some time ago that wines with a little sweetness (or at least ripe texture and plenty of fruit) went well with Asian cuisine, but they focused on the wrong reason.  They figured that the sugar cut the heat (which sugar does), but failed to realize one important fact:  plenty of Asian food is not actually spicy, but a lot of it is at least a little sweet.  And if what you’re eating is sweeter than what you’re drinking, what you’re drinking tastes tart and insipid by comparison.  However, the same is not true for the opposite.  I mean, think of a hamburger and fries with a coke.  Delicious, right?

What sweet food means for your wine is that tannic reds taste bitter; very dry, high acid whites taste tart and unappealing. And some find whites high in oak clash (though I am not of that opinion).

So, now -- what can we drink that balances all the flavors on the table and in the glass?

Think unctuous and/or sweet whites.

Chenin Blanc - ask about the house style, especially those from Vouvray, and avoid those that are too dry. Look for “demi-sec” (half-dry) or juicy South African Chenin instead.

Riesling - first choice is Germany (but perhaps one that doesn’t say “trocken,” or dry); Alsatian or Austrian rieslings, while technically dry also work because they tend to be a bit riper. Avoid any from Clare or Eden Valley in Australia.  Delicious wines, to be sure, but too racy and high-toned for what we’re looking for on Thanksgiving.

Gruner Veltliner -  If you want a truly memorable experience, look for the word Smaragd on the label.  That means “late harvest” and, while this might not translate into a particularly sweet wine, it does have the ripeness to carry the day.

Rhone grapes such as Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier, tend to be generous in texture, not very high in acid, and have the sort of “pie spice” aromatics that may blend wonderfully with your Thanksgiving table.  Of course, getting them from a Rhone Valley producer is an obvious choice, but many in California’s Central Coast are doing a wonderful job with them as well.

What if you want red?

Zinfandel - it’s a slam dunk. It doesn’t really matter where it’s from; zins are typically generous and juicy, even in their driest form.

Grenache - also easy, because most are ripe, easy, low-tannin wines that will go wonderfully with the food.  So, South of France, Spain, Australia, California -- you’re all good.

Beaujolais - a great choice if you want something a bit lighter, plus it often has a cranberry note that makes it a shoe-in.  

A note on Beaujolais Nouveau: they just came out, so the timing is perfect, but I’m a bigger fan of the traditional bottlings. I’m happy to spend a few more dollars for Cru Beaujolais like Moulin-a-Vent, Morgon, or Fleurie.  After all, I find there are few better values in wine than higher-end Beaujolais.

Pinot Noir is a popular wine on these sorts of lists, and I do love the grape, but I don’t recommend it without reservation because some really good ones are just too dry and high-toned to work as well as the wines I’ve listed above.

Lastly, whatever direction you’re leaning, I highly recommend you visit a locally-owned wine shop.  There’s a better chance they’ve tasted nearly every wine they offer and can really help you find exactly what you’re looking for.  

Whatever you choose, enjoy!
Charlie

Throw Back: When White was the New Red (and why you should still be drinking it now)

Chrissy Deal

Charlie published this article in online magazine Dame several years ago, and he thinks it's time for a revisit. His sentiments about white wine haven't changed (though maybe he's moved on from Torrontes a bit). Find out why you should still be drinking whites!

Wanna spot the poser at your next dinner party?  It's the person talking seriously about wine but only drinking reds. Having been mistakenly led to believe that whites are just a simple quaff before the main event, these hopeless sinners of wine are missing out on what could be the best juice on the table. 

As a chef, I drink far more white than red mostly because they're so much easier to pair with food. Trying to pick a wine at a restaurant that will go with everyone's entrees? Unless you're all doing red meat, a sturdy white is often going to do the job much better than pretty much any red. And if you're simply thirsty there's no contest. Whites win hands down.

So be-damned the haters and taste these “forbidden" fruits.

There's a reason Chardonnay has been planted all over the world and beaten into your head like an overplayed pop song. It's because it can be amazingly delicious. The secret (a reoccurring theme, actually) is acid.  Enough acid and Chardonnay's glorious fruits are perfectly framed. Not enough and it becomes flabby, like a salad dressed only with oil.  

Not long ago, we started to get flooded with lots of bad Chardonnay. Everyone blamed the fact that it was “too oaky." However, the problem is really that much of it is being grown in the wrong places (usually too hot) and not developing enough acid. After all, slap some oak on great Chardonnay grapes and you get a wine that is sexy and opulent. On the other hand, take the oak away from bland juice and you may have removed the only thing it had going. Well, unfortunately, that's exactly what many producers are doing, so now instead of getting bad Chardonnay with oak, they're bringing you bad Chardonnay without oak. Color me surprised.

So stick to the cooler regions and you'll be fine. A few safe bets?  Burgundy, France and Carneros or Central Coast in California.  Of course, bring your checkbook. There are tasty wines to be had for a song, but Chardonnay usually isn't one of them. Look for: Hess Collection Su'skol Vineyards - Rich and ripe pear and vanilla-caramel flavors with just enough brightness to rein it in.

Sauvignon Blanc is the grape that has made the most of Chardonnay's waning popularity because it has that precious zestiness we covet. It is grown practically everywhere and is responsible for a stunning swath of flavor profiles from austere minerality, bright citrus tones, or flamboyant, in-your-face tropical bouquets. Depending on your tastes or what you're cooking up, there's likely one for you. 

New Zealand has stolen the spotlight of late with its unmistakably vibrant grapefruit flavors but don't look past the motherland where France's Loire Valley makes some of the most regal examples in Sancerre and Pouilly Fume. Just below the radar are riper versions from Sonoma, South Africa, and South America, with the later being the best place to mine for values. Look for: Craggy Range Te Muna Road Vineyard, New Zealand - A beautifully polished wine that shows abundant citrus and nectarine fruits.

Like Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio's only sin is often being planted where it oughtn't be. The first examples we tried from the cool mountains of Northern Italy blew our minds, so they started planting it everywhere and created the glut of forgettable, watered-down juice we're currently drowning in. A point of clarification: Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris are the same grape, the second simply being what it's called in France. Pinot Gris is usually richer and the rest of the world will label their wines according to what style they're going after. If it's bright and nervy, they'll call it Grigio, rich and viscous, Gris.

Made well, these wines show a stately minerality, vibrant fruit, crisp acidity that make them an outstanding pre-meal quaff or a great wine for appetizers and seafood. The richer versions can even match richer foods like pork or slightly spicy dishes. Look for: Maso Poli, Trentino Italy -  Sultry texture and aromas of melons and stone fruit set off by bright and clean citrus flavors.

Riesling poor, poor Riesling. How can a grape responsible for some of the world's most stunning wines get such a bad rap here in the states? Sometimes dry, sometimes sweet but nearly always clean, attractive, and charming. For starters, get over your sweet hang-up. You enjoy sodas, fruit juices, and sweet cocktails. Why draw the line at wine? Provided the wine has enough acidity to set it off, a bit of sweetness can be delicious as well as just the foil for spicy fare. This makes Riesling a great option for Asian cuisine. However, don't stop there. Ripe cheeses, roasted pork, richer seafood and BBQ can all be great companions and, honestly, I could go on.

If you like sweet, think Germany (unless it's labeled “troken" for dry). Bone-dry, look for Australia or New Zealand. In between, try Alsace, France. Look for:  St. M Riesling, Germany - Lively and sweet flavors of peaches and apricots with great balance and a crisp finish.

By god do I love Torrontes.  It's really one sexy package: sultry floral aromas, silky texture, lush fruits, and often a bright finish. Better still, it's a steal, with most costing less than $10. Now, admittedly, this one may qualify in the “quaff" department, but what a quaff it is. Great with appetizers and to sip while you're snacking on what's going to become dinner. Oh, one more thing, it only comes from Argentina so, unlike Riesling, there's no confusion. Look for: Zolo - Aromas of rose petals followed by ginger and pear fruit and clean citrus on the back.

The great news is that the world is full of delicious whites and so many of them are layered with captivating nuance and charm. Better still, they flat out rock.

Not Afraid of Merlot

Jujube Chapel Hill

It’s been more than 10 years since during the movie Sideways Paul Giamatti uttered, in a line likely thrown in as an afterthought, his profane screed about Merlot:

Adult Language Used! (He really doesn't like Merlot.)

Nevermind that his prized possession in that movie, a 1961 Cheval Blanc, is a wine blended with plenty of Merlot.  Nevermind that he waxed poetic about the delicate and fickle nature of Pinot Noir, that it only does well in very particular areas, but when it does, it makes something amazing (which is all entirely true, by the way).  The market demand for that wine, likely in part because of this movie, caused people to plant Pinot everywhere, even where they really shouldn’t (which is a story for another day).  The damage was done in that one line about Merlot.

I’m asking you to rethink Merlot, and consider how perhaps, if you’re truly a fan of the grape as I am, its fall from grace can actually be seen as a good thing.  

You see, people who didn’t care about making good wine but were merely looking to make a buck ripped the Merlot vines from their mediocre vineyard sites and planted them instead with something more popular (such as Pinot; but again, another day).  However, the people who loved this grape, the way a grape responsible for making some of the world’s most revered wines deserves to be loved?  Do you think they were going to turn their back on their established vineyards, situated in areas where the grape produces delicious and profound wines?  Of course not.  And they’ve been quietly making great wines this whole time, patiently waiting for all of us to get over our silly hang-up and start enjoying Merlot again.

Now if you’d allow me to back up a bit, I should admit that we can’t entirely lay Merlot’s fall on that movie alone.  They didn’t, after all, just pick some wine at random and say bad things about it.  No, mass produced Merlot had certainly earned the bad rap it was getting.  We were awash in an ocean of innocuous, vaguely-pleasant-I-guess-but-entirely-forgettable Merlot.  Quite likely because the grape is pretty easy to grow and is pretty easy to make a largely inoffensive wine out of, even if you don’t try very hard.  That’s just what people did, and they made lots of it.  So, perhaps the wine drinking public would have turned their back on it eventually, even had it not been for that movie.  Then again, what other grape has been called out in a movie?

I digress. Other than Bordeaux, where Merlot stands side-by-side with Cabernet Sauvignon as the two most important grapes in what may be the world’s most famous wine growing region, there are a number of places where it makes amazing wine.  Washington State, where it makes a bold, ripe, and extracted wine that often overshadows the Cabernet Sauvignon from the same area, is one.  Another is Napa Valley, of course, where it often blends in a bit of softness to the more tannic Cabernets or, on its own, yields a nuanced and supple wine that often shows better young than the more heralded Cabs.  Look to the southern end of the Valley where the weather is slightly cooler to give those who are chasing after Bordeaux’s subtlety the fruit they need to do so.  And, finally, there’s Sonoma, my favorite section being Bennett Valley, that takes advantage of some of the same, cooler weather that those in southern Napa cherish.

Now that I’ve defended Merlot from its naysaying cinematic critics, let me say one more thing:  right now, Merlot is still a total bargain!  You can find deep, profound, spiced wines that are showing great out-of-gate and yet still develop with time for what a good but not remarkable Cab or Pinot costs.  Oftentimes, you’re talking single-vineyard or reserve level wines, and for one of the world’s most noble varietals.  

Here’s a couple I’m digging right now and are available at either Juju or Jujube:

Seven Falls Cellars Wahluke Slope, Columbia Valley, WA, 2012
All kinds of cocoa and black fruit.  Not a complicated wine, but loaded for bear and something you’ll dig if you’re a fan of new world Malbec.

Matanzas Creek, Sonoma County 2012
Sourced from Bennett Valley, Knights Valley, and Alexander Valley, more plums and herbs and more a classic expression of Merlot’s refinement.  I was fortunate enough to be there recently and try some of their smaller production wines, and they’re simply stunning.

Palazzo Napa Valley Red Wine 2010
From a man whose journey into wine was inspired by his love of the classic, Merlot-dominant “Right Bank” Bordeaux, comes a powerful, yet elegant expression of Merlot, with just a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc blended in.  As a restaurant, I’m looking to sell wine that tastes good tonight, so for higher-end offerings, a wine like this is perfect.  It certainly has structure, but it is laced with such finesse and beautiful black currant and spice notes.

Chateau Le Pape, Pessac-Leognan Bordeaux 2010
2010 was such a great vintage and this wine is showing so well right now.  Still youthful, showing the nuance, secondary notes, and acidity that makes you instantly think you’re drinking Bordeaux.  Yet with ripe plum fruits that seems almost new world.

Seriously, it’s time to rethink Merlot.  Heck, justify it out of some counter-cultural defiance against what the “cool kids” are supposed to be drinking.  Just give it another shot.  

The Story of Marimar Torres

Chrissy Deal

The notion of prominent European wineries setting up shop in California’s wine country is certainly not new; they’re often well funded and build some rather fantastic castles in what used to be my home turf.  I don’t say this in a disparaging way, and most produce very good to exceptional wines.  But, being from California, I was always inclined to be partial to the more home-grown talent.  

So, I’ll be honest, when I first heard of Marimar Estate and the connection to the Torres family, I categorized them as the same.  A big Spanish house coming in and spreading their brand to what had become recognized as one of the world’s premier areas for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  And, again, that isn’t a bad thing, per se; after all, Torres makes great wines at every price point, both in Spain and Chile, but still…

All of that changed when I was fortunate enough to meet Marimar Torres on my recent trip to Sonoma. She is as integral in the growth of Russian River Pinot Noir as any of the other great winemakers I met, and hers is a story that was both captivating and worth repeating.

Growing up in Barcelona, while Spain was under the rule of Franco, she eventually realized that, as a woman, she was destined for a life as a second class citizen.  Sure, being from a prominent family meant that her life would be at least comfortable, but that wasn’t enough for her.  So, in the mid 70s, she left the country and took over international sales for her family’s business, also buying some land in Sonoma, long before it had the cache it now has.

Even still she had to fight sexism in the industry and even from her own family who seemed to find her desire to get into the family business as something cute that she would hopefully out grow so she could just settle down.  Thankfully, she never did.  Rather, she became one of the modern pioneers of Russian River Valley wines, planting and managing organic Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards in areas some thought foolish to try.  

Standing in her vineyards, tapping her knowledge and that of her colleagues, was illuminating to say the least.  I learned so much about the soil, the weather, the passion and, to be clear, this was shared by so many other winemakers I met, whose wines I’ll be showcasing going forward.  

But, perhaps because my own preconceptions were so wrong about the genesis of Marimar Estate, her story was one I am particularly eager to share.

We will also offer her Mas Cavalls Pinot Noir from her Dona Margarita Vineyard in the Sonoma Coast appellation.  Putting your nose in the glass, you are immediately greeted with classic pinot notes of black cherry and spice.  The texture is generous and echoes the abundant flavours expressed in the aromas, while the wine finishes, at once, both clean and long.  This is a pinot that is ripe enough that you don’t need to be an oenophile to love, yet the Burgundy purists will still appreciate. 

$16/glass or $58/bottle

~Charlie

Two Sonoma Heavyweights Face Off: Pliny vs. Racer 5 for National IPA Day

Chrissy Deal

Charlie in Sonoma, trying the Russian River Brewing Co.'s Pliny the Elder

Charlie in Sonoma, trying the Russian River Brewing Co.'s Pliny the Elder

Among the beer intelligentsia, Russian River Brewing Co.’s Pliny the Elder has achieved legendary status.  Certainly much of this is because it’s a damned fine beer, but its scarcity also has much to do with it.  It’s an IPA that is on any true hophead’s bucket list — and we can’t get it in NC.

So when I recently traveled to California for the Russian River Valley Pinot Noir Forum in Sonoma (it was a work trip and that’s the story I’m sticking to!), I made a special point of seeking it out and even promised to sneak a few bottles back in my luggage for friends who’d never had it before.  I was staying the first few nights with an old friend, Ernest, and made my intentions clear.  He told me he’d be happy to help “but,” he added, “I’ve got to say, I’m more of a Racer 5 guy myself.”

Hold up, so you live in the actual town where Pliny is made, can get as much of it as you want, as often as you want to, but would just as soon as drink Bear Republic Racer 5?  

Hey, you know what they say, to each his own. That evening, before I’d manage to track down any Pliny, he poured me a Racer 5, and I do have to say it was really tasty.  Mind you, I wasn’t in the mood to contemplate a beer at that point, I’d been traveling all day and was simply thirsty.  But it was really, really tasty.

The next day, after hitting a few wineries, we decided to make the pilgrimage to Russian River Brewery, where we were greeted by a line down the block, on a Saturday afternoon.  Russian River is also known for making some amazing sour ales, and I brought some of them home as well, but I was there for Pliny.  The freshest Pliny you’re gonna get.  And it was every bit as delicious as I could have hoped for.  I bought my mixed six pack of their various sours and the three Plinys I was bringing back for my peeps on this coast and that was that.  At least for a day or so.

The very next evening, while at one of the venues for the Pinot Forum, I noticed a stack of cases of Pliny.  In a near Pavlovian way, I remarked to the host, “Ooh, Pliny!”  

“Yeah that’s to drink during Tuesday morning’s seminar, but you know if it were up to me, we’d be drinking Racer 5.  I love IPAs and that one is certainly my favorite.”  

There it was again!  And this guy was a winemaker, a hophead.  Dude knew his way around a drink.

So, just out of curiosity, I started asking the rest of the locals, including the other winemakers at the event.  One even said, “Yeah, we got you guys Pliny, because we know a bunch of you have heard of it and wanted to check it out.  But out here, we all drink Racer 5.”  It was true.  Not a single Sonoma local I asked said they preferred Pliny to Racer 5.  

Now, what I never got a chance to do was sit down and taste the two blind, side-by-side, but that’s something I very much intend to do on, of all days, Thursday, August 4, on National IPA day.  I’ve got a bottle of Pliny and a bottle of Racer 5, and I’m going to taste them blind with a couple friends.  I’m curious to see what we all think.

But here’s the deal, even if I end up liking Pliny better, I can’t get it out here.  Racer 5, on the other hand, is totally available and, having at least tasted it and liked it, plus the overwhelming experience I had asking about it, I just have to bring it in.

So, again, starting Thursday, August 4, I’m proudly serving Bear Republic’s Racer 5 at all three restaurants: Jujube, Juju, and Dos Perros.

Come try it for yourself.