Most wine drinkers know the typical pairing rules; beef = heavy red, Cabernet Sauvignon, Barolo, Brunello. Seafood/Shellfish = white, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pork/Pasta = Pinot Noir, Zin. But what about those evenings when you’re not eating the standard fare for dinner? I do not usually eat a full meal for dinner, most nights I’m not wanting or needing more than a small nosh before bed.
While attending a recent wine tasting, I realized I do not always pair the wine I’m drinking with conventional food – or any food. There are those days when I just don’t want a big meal at dinner but I do want a glass of wine. It is those evenings when I’m just enjoying a peanut butter and cherry jelly sandwich that I find myself thinking – now…what wine goes with peanut butter and jelly? Answer: Pinot Grigio. I really like the Twirl Pinot Grigio which is from California. This is a dry, slightly fruity Pinot Grigio. The cherry jelly brings out the fruit in this wine. Any type of sweet jam or jelly would do the same.
Captain Crunch is a bit more of a challenge to pair with wine. I personally do not eat cereal but there are those in my family that do. And, while I do not advocate eating a sugary cereal in the evening, if you’re a person that enjoys a bowl of Captain Crunch late in the evening, try a Dry Riesling, such as Chateau St. Michelle Dry Riesling. We usually drink this with sweet or spicy foods (think Thai food or spicy Asian food).
Nachos is more my style for dinner than cereal. We recently enjoyed some nachos with pickled jalapeño peppers and pulled pork. A typical wine to go with this would be a red Rioja. The oak aging of a red Rioja brings out the best in any barbecued beef, pork or chicken. However, the sweetness of the pulled pork made me think a French or Californian Sauvignon Blanc would be tasty, and yes it was. We paired this with Lillie’s Californian Sauvignon Blanc. While the Rioja was good, Lillie’s was a surprising tasty treat. Lillie’s is from the Northern Coastal region of California, with medium acidity with flavors of lemon and grass, not a lot of melon in this Sauv.
Now, let’s talk about Mac n Cheese. I imagine you’re thinking “Mac n Cheese in the summer?” Yes! My personal recipe calls for a sprinkling of shredded cheddar/jack, then blue cheese crumbles, a dusting of panko crumbs or bread crumbs then a drizzle of Vermont maple syrup. Yep, Vermont maple syrup (if you’re going to make this recipe please use Vermont maple syrup). This particular recipe works well as an appetizer, especially at barbecues or an afternoon get-together. A nicely chilled Grüner Veltliner goes perfect with this recipe, keeping it light and fresh. We enjoyed Broadbent, from Austria. A typical Grüner Veltliner is crisp, light and fresh with notes of toasted almonds and melon. Broadbent is no exception to the freshness of this grape varietal. The flavors of the Broadbent Grüner Veltliner enhance the blend of the blue cheese and maple syrup. Mac n Cheese is a good choice to have at parties because many people cannot eat shellfish, fish and/or beef. Most everyone I know can, and does, eat Mac n Cheese!
For those evenings when a grilled cheese sandwich and/or tomato soup is on the menu, try a Central Coast California Chardonnay. Of course the wine choice would change depending on what cheese you choose, but for a typical medium cheddar grilled cheese sandwich, I’d go with a medium oaked, medium bodied chard. Most of the Chardonnays coming from the Central Coast region of California fall into this category. One of our favorite Chardonnay wines from this region is Mer Soleil Silver Unoaked Chardonnay which comes in a unique ceramic bottle (very easy to locate in your chilled wine storage).
If your choice for dinner is the fresh produce of Summer, and veggies are on the grill, try a Vinho Verde. Grilled veggies are synonymous with Summer as is Vinho Verde. Coming from Portugal, most Vinho Verde wines have a light effervescence and a hint of sweetness, together with citrus and melon flavors, making them perfect for a light grilled supper. One of my favorite Vinho Verde wines is Casal Garcia. The lightness of the Casal Garcia makes it perfect for any mildly flavored dish or as an apéritif.
We have covered a lot of wine for the summer weather but for those of you that are stuck in colder weather and craving the comfort carbs such as potatoes (mashed or baked) or some good old dirty rice and beans, try pairing these foods with a easy going red such as a Merlot, Right-Bank Rhône or even a Grenache. These wines are usually easy on the tannins and lean more to the fruit forward side. Keep the Big Boy Reds, the Barolos and Cabs for the meals heavy in beef. We recently enjoyed a lovely Merlot from Whitehall Lane. Nice and soft with notes of plums and blackberries. Not a lot of structure in this wine but then a meal without heavy protein does not need a wine with a lot of structure.
And finally, when you’re not in the mood for a meal but want a bit of something to end the day, try pairing smooth Blue Cheese with Warre’s Warrior Port. If you’re looking for something on the sweeter side consider pairing very dark chocolate with a slightly chilled Petite Sirah. We usually open a bottle of McManis Petite Sirah when we’re in the mood for this combination.
Now that you have some ideas for ways to pair what is in your wine stash with what you’re having for supper, what will you be eating and drinking tonight?