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Family Recipe

Santa Rosan cooks up a line of barbecue sauce

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BAR-B-CUTE  The Werles dip into the barbecue sauce business.
  • BAR-B-CUTE The Werles dip into the barbecue sauce business.

Matt and Natalie Werle have their hands full with four young daughters—including triplets—but if the family-business T-shirts are any indication, the kids are totally on board with the mom-and-dad barbecue-sauce operation that the family started in December.

Saucin is a tangy and healthful, locally produced barbecue sauce that's a labor of love for Matt Werle. He concocted the recipe while working up pork-shoulder tacos from the barbecue, his "dad place" in the Werle family home in Santa Rosa.

Werle's barbecue sauce was popular among family and friends, and was featured in one of Natalie's family member's Redwood City restaurants, when Matt was still making the sauce himself.

He also won a first-responder's barbecue contest several years ago in Marin County, he says with a laugh, "and my head got real big." In that competition he took first in the sauce category and second in the ribs.

In December the couple took Saucin to the streets and shops and the response has been enormously supportive, says Werle, a California highway patrolman when he's not running the business with his wife.

Saucin is a thin sauce relative to many others on the market (some of which can be overly treacly), but it's thick on flavor and richness and a great, all-purpose sauce perfect for dipping or marinating.

In order to get a tangy crust that doesn't burn, Werle recommends slathering meat with the sauce when you've got about 10 minutes left to go.

The sauce, he says, works well on pork, chicken and beef. Sebastopol's Pacific Market offered up a salmon and Saucin dish not long ago.

Werle says he didn't set out to make healthful barbecue sauce that actually has some flavor and bite—but diabetics and personal trainers have responded positively to the low-sugar, low-sodium, no-corn-syrup recipe that gets its mellow creep-up zing from judiciously applied garlic and Sriracha. "We did not plan on the health aspect."

It's suddenly summer and barbecue season—and Saucin is also suddenly all over the place: at the Safeway, at Umpqua Bank, which has a local-purveyor program, and at Pacific Market and even Fogbelt Brewing Co.

"We never thought we'd be in Safeway this quickly," says Natalie, who handles the business, marketing and online sales.

Saucin is priced at $4.99 in Safeway, and you won't find retailers clipping buyers for more than $6 a bottle.

Like many who have come before him in the world of local purveyor-ship of a beloved food, Werle started out by making a sauce that he would like—and one he could afford: "I wanted to make it something that I would buy."

The sauce is made in Healdsburg by CMS Fine Foods, a company that also does product creation for Trader Joe's. Two local distributors move the product around the North Bay, FEED Sonoma and Morris Distribution. Keep an eye peeled for the Werles at the Wine Country Big Q Festival on July 8 at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds in Petaluma.

The law enforcement veteran and Sonoma County native (Natalie Werle hails from Terra Linda in Marin County) says the number-one question he gets is, Do you have a spicy version?

It's coming, Matt says.

"That's our next goal."

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