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It had been one decade since I last stepped foot in a Wendy’s. Despite the long absence, I have always held fond thoughts of the fast food chain, and especially for their late founder, Dave Thomas, the avid hockey fan and supporter of the NHL. Can’t find that combo too easily nowadays. Pushing headfirst forward into my survey of the fast food circuit I made a pit stop at Wendy’s to share a split of Chateauneuf-du-Pape over a ¼-pounder and a French film.

My customary order from Wendy’s was never a burger, but rather chicken nuggets; Wendy’s was never my go-to burgery, having eaten there less than a handful of times in my life. On the rare occasion that I went, I copied one of my hockey line-mate’s orders from afternoon practice in Tustin/Irvine. Then it hit me; this may’ve been my first actual burger from Wendy’s (!), as I rolled up to the drive-thru and placing my request for a ¼-pounder.

I made it out of the drive-thru through for just shy of one five-dollar bill, placing the tote with the warm and redolent contents next to my carefully positioned split. In my possession was a half bottle of affordably priced (though it was sample—free) Châteauneuf-du-Pape from Clos de l’Oratoire “Des Papes” from the less-than-stunning 2008 vintage. The bottle’s vintage label and surprising color scheme has always been attractive to me, even after I learned of Domaine du Pegau, Château de Beaucastel, and Château Rayas—whose labels might communicate a slightly more historic sense and their high prices certainly affirm their significance (of place and pedigree) along with their current acclaim. All this is to say that riding shotgun on the passenger seat, I had the workingman’s Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

When I pulled up to my friend’s house, with a copy of Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Doulos, food, camera and wine, our evening was close to underway. My friend oddly enough had already eaten at Wendy’s earlier in the evening and was just awaiting my review. I set up a mini photo shoot, opening the bottle and positioning my subjects while he readied the DVD. We sat down, while I ate and he talked about the happenings of the day before we started the gangster flick.

The presentation, much like my Burger King experience before it, was in good order. The ingredients looked crisp and fresh. The flavors were simple but the patty was a little dry—no doubt it fell victim to being chaperoned a mile and half out, instead of being wolfed down on the spot; I was willing to give it that. I washed down the mouth-drying burger and reached for a glass of the red wine that was brimming with darker berries and ripe plums, giving way to cracked black pepper, a faint meatiness, and herbal notes of thyme and lavender. It was delightful. I was smitten with the performance of the value-minded Châteauneuf-du-Pape, it elevated the food and certain savory flavors were extracted from the wine while I took my next few bites. It was a favorable exchange, as the Southern French wine did yeoman’s work to mask the only flaw of the burger.

Not only did the wine help the food, it eased us through the unfortunate ending that befell the star of the Melville film. That evening the working-class Châteauneuf-du-Pape was the highlight of the night, supporting both the cinema and food. The Wendy’s showing wasn’t terrible by any stretch, but just like some of my favorite fast-food chains, inconsistency issues can rise to mar the experience. I wouldn’t be against going back but I am in no hurry to do so.

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