Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Pairing Wine with Cajun Food

By Liza B. Zimmerman


Visitors to New Orleans often fall in love with the local Sazeracs and love to walk the streets with Tiki drinks in hand. The truth is Cajun food is pretty challenging to pair with wine.

“The profile of Cajun food ranges from salty, fatty, spicy too very sweet when it comes to some of our desserts and pastries,” says chef Nathan Richard of the restaurant Kingfish. Those are all challenging flavors that can overwhelm many wonderful wines.

“Generally, I like to pair a Champagne (prosecco or cava goes well too) with a heavy chicken sausage gumbo because it pairs well with the salt and fat,” adds the chef. Champagnes—such as Gosset or the Italian sparkler Paolo Palumbo Lettere—a blend from Southern Italy—would all be great choices.

What to Do with Spice
Cajun food can have consistent notes of spice that can pair well with off-dry wines. “Something on the spicier side, like [the pork sausage] Boudain, would go well with a Riesling that has moderate alcohol [level],” chef notes. Cool-climate Riesling such as Covey Run from Washington State or Cave Spring Estate in Ontario are lively and refreshing.

Higher alcohol levels won’t complement the flavors of Cajun food. It is that, “crisp, acidic qualities that helps cleanse the palate and make you want another bite,” concludes Richard. 

The salty, savory flavors of cured meats present another challenge. And New Orleans is under the spell of charcuterie as much as the rest of us. “Charcuterie is so varied in flavor and texture; salty, sweet, gamey, mild, silky, dry, fatty, chunky, chewy, melty. Lambrusco works for me on this,” says chef. The bubbles will cut through the salt and cleanse your palate. Lini is a great example of this Central Italian wine.

Richard also likes the zesty acidity in Albariño. The Spanish make the classic examples of this wine, such as Do Zoe Rias Baixas from Northern Spain. Some domestic regions in California and the Pacific Northwest are making good examples.

Bigger plates of meat also figure in Cajun cooking, especially wild game. “A big Red Burgundy can stand up to the meat but for milder rabbit, quail, and even liver an Orgeon Pinot Noir would pair nicely.” While I might go with a Pinot Noir like Oregon’s affordable A to Z Wineworks, I also might pair something bigger and earthier such as a French Syrah. A Châteauneuf-du-Pape or Gigondas always works well with slightly gamey meat.

“Brandy and other fortified wines are a favorite with Cajun desserts because we love our sweets,” says chef and legendary destinations such as Café du Monde for beignets testify to that. A touch of Mission Hill Ice Wine works with almost any kind of custard- or fruit-based dessert and is often just a treat on its own.

“Cajun food is simple and made for people to come together,” he says. The best way to help consumers pair this cuisine with wine is by helping them “understand flavor profiles and textures but to learn the history of the food and the people, connect it to the beverage and make it an experience.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.
Photo Credit: Food Network

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Pairing Thai Food and Wine

By Liza B. Zimmerman


The multiple layers of spice, and intensity, in Thai food can make you want to reach for a cool beer, but the right wine might be a better choice. The beer might give you an illusion of coolness but won't really slake you thirst, whereas the bright acidity and a touch of residual sugar in a white wine will do just the trick.

I just got back from a few weeks in Thailand, and the food in the North of the country is particularly delicious and full of simultaneous flavor bursts of sugar, vineyard, spice and fish sauce. While the wine selection isn't abundant there, they are some good choices. Chilean Sauvignon Blancs, are thankfully are in abundance. For Winfried Hancke, group director of operations and food and beverage  at the Bangkok-based Centara Resorts, which runs hotels and restaurants all over the country, Sauvignon Blanc would be his top pick with Thai cuisine.

Great picks should include the fresh and crisp Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc from California and the Errazuriz or Lapostolle Sauvignons from Chile. A touch of white Bordeaux with Sauvignon base softened by Semillon would also work well.

The Sweet Side
Since Thai food can not only be spicy but sweet as well, as many Thais add extra sugar to their soup at the table, an off-dry wine is often a perfect match. "Beverages which have sweetness go well as the food itself contain sugar," notes Hancke, in a nod to the canisters of sugar on the table in almost any Thai restaurant. "The spiciness of the food is best cut by sweetness," he concludes. 

Off-dry Riesling with its balanced acid and ribbons of sugar is always a classic match for all types of chili-laced foods (feel free to try it with Chinese and Mexican as well). New York State and Canada are making some superb versions such as Cave Spring Estate from Ontario and Dr. Konstantin Franck's Salmon Run from the Finger Lakes.

Sparkling wine can cut through the grease with some of the fried street food the Thais love so much, whether it is squid on a stick or a butter-rich, roti bread packed with spicy chicken or eggs.

Red wines are going to be much harder to pair with these dishes as their tannins tend to flight with the spice and the sweetness of the dishes. If you really want some of the flavors of a red I would go with a rosé: some of my favorites are from Spain's Navarra and France's Bordeaux. I much prefer their strong flavors and intense colors over the pale versions coming out of Southern France. South Africa is also making some great roses such as Mulderbosch's rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Thailand does produce some of own wine in the Hau Hin Valley, where the grapes are amazingly harvested by elephants, but it is pretty rare to find anything from the Monsoon Valley label in this country.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.
Photo Credit: Centara Resorts

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Seared Pork and Vinho Verde

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer


This time of year and the high heat and humidity is seemingly challenging to wine drinkers.  I recommend getting into a place of high heat like Portugal. The wines that I just go crazy over Vinho Verde wines. 

These refreshing quaffs are just the thing for the steamy, dog days of August.  Low in alcohol and high in quality, food friendly wines like Vinho Verde should fill your refrigerator. 

I’m going crazy over one such brand, Vera Vinho Verde 2012 (Vinho Verde, Portugal)

For $ 11.99 at DrinkupNY, you can drink like a local.  Comprised of 60% Arinto, 30% Azal and 10% Loureiro, Vinho Verde is jam packed full of lemon, lime and grapefruit zests.  There is an underlying backbone of crushed wet stones along with droplets of salinity in each slightly fizzy, yet lip-smacking and thirst quenching sip.

But why just sip a wine as delicious as this one?  I recommend pouring as many glasses as you are able down your gullet!

It’s got very little alcohol, thus the Vera is the perfect beach wine- as long as you keep it very, very chilled down- as is the way in Portugal.

A few days ago I chanced upon the opportunity to eat dinner at a lovely Portuguese seafood restaurant in Newark, NJ named Seabra's Marisqueira.  Located in the Ironbound section, “bound” by the rail yards that used to define this part of formerly industrialized Newark, this area is now Brazilian, Portuguese, Spanish and just about every country from Central and South America represented here.  Seabra’s specializes in absolutely pristine, fresh from the Hunt’s Point market seafood, simply prepared with love.  From the moment that you walk through the broad, glass fronted door, you find yourself transported to another country.  In this case it is the Algarve in Portugal.  Even the soda water is from Portugal!  You can imagine that with the hot weather I would want to drown myself in Caperhinia’s like so many do in the Summer, but I had other thoughts.  The wine known as Vinho Verde is displayed in buckets of ice and water all through the restaurant.  The reason why it is in symmetry with all the pristine fish is because this wine just screams seafood. 

I cannot imagine drinking anything else when the temperature goes above 90 degrees!

So what do you eat with Vinho Verde?  That depends on how hungry you are.  In my case I know that Seabra’s is particularly talented at making my favorite dish, Pork and Clams.  Savory, long cooked- pork butt, with hot chilies, pickled cauliflower, onions, potatoes, carrots and clams, steamed in the pork-laden broth.  It is a dish that says hot weather- I’m hungry- feed me now…  You grab handfuls of the good Portuguese bread- doughy, covered in flour with a good stiff crust and dip it into the broth- redolent of salt spray and root vegetables- the ocean showing through along with the unmistakable flavor of the porcine treat.  Dark meat defines this dish and if you don’t have an appetite for a big meal, you should still order it and take home the leftovers for another meal- or two!
And the Vinho Verde?  After a few thirst quenching glasses, I though I should share this recipe with you. 

Ingredients
For the Marinade:
2 pounds pork butt, cut into smallish cubes 2x2
3 heads garlic, unpeeled just cut off the tops
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup Vinho Verde
1 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (strained)
1/2 cup good Spanish olive oil
1 tablespoon hot (spicy) paprika
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 bay leaf

For the Pork:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons bacon fat
3 cups chopped onions and shallots
4 tablespoon minced garlic
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chicken stock (homemade is essential)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup Piri Piri
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups tomato concasse (peeled, seeded, and chopped)
5 pounds clams, well scrubbed and purged overnight with cornmeal
4 tablespoons Italian Parsley Leaf, well washed

Directions
Place the pork butt into a large re-sealable plastic food storage bag. In a blender, combine the garlic, salt, white wine, vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, paprika, red pepper flakes and bay leaf. Blend until smooth and pour over the pork. Seal the plastic bag and set in a casserole dish and place in the refrigerator over night.

Set a large braising pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and bacon fat to the pan. Remove the pork from the refrigerator and drain, reserving the marinade. Sear the pork pieces in the hot fat in batches, until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Turn to the other side and sear for an additional 2 minutes. Remove the pork from the pan and set aside on a platter while you finish searing the remainder of the pork.

Once all the pork is seared and has been removed from the pan, add the onions to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic to the pan and cook for 30 seconds. Sprinkle the flour into the pan and cook, stirring continuously, for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, Piri Piri, salt and reserved marinade to the pan and stir to combine. Continue to stir until the mixture comes to a boil. Return the pork to the pan and when the liquid returns to a boil, cover with a lid and reduce the heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Add the tomatoes and clams to the pan, stir to combine and cover. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook until the clams open, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the lid, reduce the temperature to low, and sprinkle with the parsley. Discard any clams that do not open, and serve the dish with freshly made potato “chips”… thick slices of boiling potatoes that are pre-cooked, cooled and fried in olive oil and salt until crispy.

Piri Piri:
1 tablespoon, plus 1/2 cup olive oil
5 cloves garlic, smashed
4 cayenne chili peppers, stemmed, ribs and seeds removed, and rough chopped (or substitute other hot red peppers)
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice strained
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat a small sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the pan. Once the oil is hot, add the garlic and peppers to the pan. Sauté, stirring often, until the edges of the garlic start to turn brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the lemon juice to the pan, and remove from the heat.

Place the contents of the saute pan in a blender and add the salt. Puree the peppers and garlic in the blender until mostly smooth. Drizzle the remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil through the feed tube of the lid of the blender. Let cool before using, and store refrigerated in an airtight container.

Yield: 3/4 cup

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

About Warren Bobrow
Warren Bobrow is the creator of the popular blog The Cocktail Whisperer and the author of nearly half a dozen books, including Apothecary Cocktails, Whiskey Cocktail and Bitters and Shrub Syrup Cocktails- his most recent book.

He's also written about cocktails for Saveur and Whole Foods/Dark Rye, Total Food Service, Eater, Serious Eats, Foodista, Distiller and Beverage Media among other outlets.  He’s taught the fine art of social media and food writing at the New School in New York and at the Institute for Culinary Education. Warren has also taught at Stonewall Kitchen in Maine.

Bobrow was a 2010 Ministry of Rum judge and was the only American food journalist asked to participate in Fête de la Gastronomie, a nationwide celebration of French cuisine in Burgundy. 
Photo Credit: PatioDaddioBBQ

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Pairing Sake with Food

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Japanese sake has long been a hard-to-understand beverage. It comes in various flavors and styles and is sometimes sparkling, unfiltered and even shows up in unpasteurized versions which are often called Nama--which means raw or fresh--sake. Its alcohol by volume content generally runs lightly more than a full-bodied wine, at 15 to 16 percent abv (or slightly higher). It has the maderized flavor of Sherry but is fermented from rice. The best ones are show better when served cold and its  flavor profiles run from light and fragrant to deep and full-flavored spirits that can even stand up well to fried foods and meat.

The Flavor Lexicon
I had the pleasure of eating at the Grand Hyatt in Tokyo on my first trip to Japan. Sake and its sibling cuisine is incredibly complex and layered. It often has most in common, for me, with the structure and balance of Italian food at its best, as there's always a place and time for each dish and drink and never the twain shall meat. Try asking for sushi and shabu shabu at the same restaurant and you see the kind the kind of look you get. Sake, according to Atsushi Sato the sake sommelier at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo, also has a natural flow during a meal. He says that a meal ideally should progress from a delicate Daiginjo sake with salads to a fresh-flavored Ginjyo with chicken or grilled fish. The last steps would be a rich, acid-driven Jyunmai with fried or grilled food, followed by an aged Koshu sake with lamb, cheese or after a meal. SakeOne's "Momokawa Diamond," Gunmai Ginjo from Oregon is one I have enjoyed with a range of foods. It's slightly off-dry flavor and mineral notes make it incredibly flexible in terms of food pairings.

Tips for Pairing
Sato says that one of the biggest challenges in pairing sake with food is that it's not a very self-assertive beverage. That can also be a benefit as its flavors, and lack of tannins, are unlikely to dominate a dish that isn't driven by animal fat or cream. He adds that sake's fermented, what we might perceive as "maderized nature," makes it also pair well with a wide range of cheese. You don't see the usual cheese cart at too many Japanese restaurants but we do love a healthy serving of it here and sake may well be a less-tannic pairing than red wine with these after-dinner treats.

That same deliciously oxidized flavor profile makes a good sake a delightful aperitif as well. You could even put it on the rocks or with a twist of orange (don't tell Sato San!). I won't do that with the best of them, but there's always room to experiment.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Roasted Pork and Nebbiolo!

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

G.D. Vajra "Albe" Barolo 2009 (Piedmont, Italy) is a remarkably delicious wine that is calling your name.  Not that I drink Barolo every night, far from- but for a special occasion, or if you are in the income bracket that makes a $ 35 dollar bottle of wine an everyday bottle- then this one is truly gorgeous. 

The Nebbiolo grape is a fickle beast.  It grows better as the soil becomes more rock-like and harsh.  Altitude is what Nebbiolo craves, steep slopes, fiercely pruned back and never, ever any irrigation.  This Nebbiolo aside from being hauntingly memorable, is a blend of grapes from each of Vajra’s vineyards.  The careful blending reveals the Terroir (or taste of the place) that is unique to this varietal. 

Nebbiolo is soft in the mouth with notes of citrus peel, crushed stones, trodden herbs, red fruits, a hint of liquorice and copious handfuls of rose petals perfume the palate.  This is wine for intellectuals as it forces you to drink carefully and boldly.  It’s not candy wine, nor is it too restrained- there is a happy medium at work in each sip.  You are forced by the very nature of the place to smile when you drink it.  This is happy wine indeed rolling in at about 14.5% alcohol, so make sure the food that you eat is robust and plentiful!

I love this wine for many reasons.  The first and foremost is the way it goes with food like wild boar, slow cooked with tomato, broth, sweet carrots, shallot and whole garlic cloves.  You need to cook a dish like this all day, preferably in an oven that goes low and slow for hours and hours without complaining.  In the villages of Italy, dinners were put into the oven the night prior in a local bakery.  As the ovens cooled overnight, the chemical reaction of slow heat to fatty, tough meat became magical.  When a cup or so of the Nebbiolo was introduced to carrots, celery, onion, shallot, rosemary and garlic with some bone broth and freshly ground salt/pepper- well, let’s just say it’s magical!

You should always cook with the wine you are drinking, lest the flavors be out of balance and I NEVER advocate cooking with wine that has gone sour- or turned, otherwise the dish will be ruined by the bad wine.  Think!  Bad wine in, bad sauce out.  Don’t do it!  I’ll come find you and it won’t be pretty…  Ok, so I won’t find you- but really, there is no such thing as cooking with sour wine- it’s just not done!

My pork dish for cooking all day is the normally tough cut from the Butt.  This is not the rear end, but the shoulder of the porcine delight.  This cut needs low and slow braising and patience to reveal itself.  I took a 5-pound pork butt into this recipe- I’d start with one that size for two people and go up from there- with certainly enough in leftovers!

Ingredients Nutrition
Servings – depends on how hungry you and your friend is…

1: (5 lb.) pork shoulder butt, roast
•    10 whole garlic cloves with one end cut off, but unpeeled
•    ½ cup Heinz Ketchup or 1 #10 can of crushed tomatoes
•    ¾ cup Demerara sugar or Moscovado sugar for a deeper flavor
•    1 teaspoon sea salt
•    1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
•    1 cup G.D. Vajra "Albe" Barolo 2009 (Piedmont, Italy)
Directions
1.    Make small slits all over the roast then insert a whole garlic clove into each slit
2.    Place the roast in a cast iron pan with a lid, Le Creuset works…
3.    Sprinkle the roast on all sides with the Heinz Ketchup
4.    Let sit at room temperature (lightly covered with foil) for at least 2 hours.
5.    After 1-1/2 hours spoon any Heinz Ketchup (if any) back on the roast that has accumulated on the bottom of the casserole.  Add the wine at this time…
6.    Using hands press raw sugar well into the meat on all sides making certain that the sugar sticks to the meat.
7.    Cover tightly.
8.    Preheat oven to 425 degrees F for 15 minutes.
9.    Place the roast in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 200 degrees F.
10.  Roast for at least 5 hours or until the meat is just falling apart (cooking time will vary depending on the size of the roast).
11.    Stir the salt and black pepper into the juice (do not omit the salt.  This is essential!).
12.    Let rest for at least a ½ hour before slicing
13.    Slice meat as desired.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

About Warren Bobrow
Warren Bobrow is the creator of the popular blog The Cocktail Whisperer and the author of nearly half a dozen books, including Apothecary Cocktails, Whiskey Cocktail and Bitters and Shrub Syrup Cocktails- his most recent book.

He's also written about cocktails for Saveur and Whole Foods/Dark Rye, Total Food Service, Eater, Serious Eats, Foodista, Distiller and Beverage Media among other outlets.  He’s taught the fine art of social media and food writing at the New School in New York and at the Institute for Culinary Education. Warren has also taught at Stonewall Kitchen in Maine.

Bobrow was a 2010 Ministry of Rum judge and was the only American food journalist asked to participate in Fête de la Gastronomie, a nationwide celebration of French cuisine in Burgundy. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Pairing Wine with Seafood

By Liza B. Zimmerman


Summer is here and if you live anywhere near the Coast you will be digging into some freshly caught seafood. Nothing tastes as good as lobster right out of the water in Maine, fresh oysters that smell like the sea or a big bowl of steamed clams drenched in butter.

With seafood I am all about what grows together going together. I don' think that I have ever had a finer pairing than the heaps of oysters pulled out of the Bay of Arcachon, a sleepy little fishing village just outside of Bordeaux, with the local white wines. You could taste the same salinity in the White Bordeaux that was in the oysters.

Keeping it Coastal
Almost any wine made in the vicinity of sea, bay or ocean breezes is going to pair well with seafood. Muscadet from the Loire Valley is divine with most sea creatures as you can smell and feel the salt of the sea when you sip it. Almost all of the Loire Valley whites--from Sancerre to Pouilly-Fumé--are great choices.

The costal areas of Spain and Portugal offer some spectacular wines that cry out for a big platter of simply grilled or steamed seafood. The far north of Portugal produces wines from native grapes such as Trajadura and Loureiro and the region's soft and fruity Vinho Verdes are as good on the palate as they are on the wallet.

Their are few things that pair better with simple seafood than a great Albariño: especially from Rias Biaxas in Northern Spain. A handful of California producers have also been making some solid interpretations of this wine from regions from Santa Ynez to the Russian River.

Classics and Wild Cards
A beautifully balanced, but not too yeasty, Champagne is always a match made in heaven with oysters and lobster. Fairly dry domestic versions from California and New Mexico--particularly Gruet--will also do the trick. Spanish Cavas, and Italian Proseccos as well as Franciacorta, would also be good picks.

Unless the seafood is prepared in some kind of red sauce you are going to have a hard time finding a red wine that won't taste tinny and metallic with much of it. The use of tomatoes or anchovies will form a flavor bridge that can create synergies between some Southern Italian-style preparations of dishes of shrimp and other seafood, or Portuguese stews. Again low tannin and low-alcohol wines would be best with these dishes.

Many of the reds from Puglia, particularly those made from local grape such as Primitivo, can have modest alcohol levels of close to 13 percent. Despite its hot climate, Sicily also excels in making some seafood-friendly reds from cool climate areas and grapes such as Nerello Mascalese and Frappato. Spanish indigenous varitals such as D. Ventura's "Vina Do Burato" Rib

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.
Photo Credit: NFI

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Wines for the 4th of July

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Great wines to enjoy, hopefully on a blanket in the park in the sun, for this country's anniversary should have fizz, spice and substance. My family used to have a lobster salad-based picnic in Central Park near where I grew up on the Upper West Side and everyone brought something to eat and drink.

There were bubbles, big muscular reds and unusual Croatian wines that had been sitting in people's basements for way too long. However we always had fun with the pairings: joked about them and always voted on what worked best with that super mayonnaise-infused lobster salad.

Start Fresh and Clean
Fizzy and acidic whites are great to start a meal. It might also be reverent to drink a few domestic sparklers here. Some beautiful ones are coming out of Washington State, some of which are off-dry crowd-pleasers. They are also supremely affordable.

California is also producing some lovely sparkling wine, both from smaller producers, as well as the siblings of Champagne houses. Spanish Cavas and Italian proseccos are also great on their own and even fun with a slash of tonic water or Martini Bianco.

Crisp white from everywhere from the Central Coast of California to the Northern parts of Spain are also likely to work well with salads, hard cheeses and olives with which you might start off a meal. Sauvignon Blanc is always a great bet as are many of the Iberian varietals--hello Verdelho--that are being grown with lots of success in places as diverse as Lodi and tk.

White Rhône varitals are also refreshing, although generally richer in style and taste profile. Regions such as Paso Robles on the Central Coast of California and producers in mid and Eastern Washington are also producing some great wines from Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier such as the Magnificent Wine Company's House Wine which is primarily Chardonnay with a touch of white Rhône grapes.

Go Spicy
Not everyone wants the lobster salad so bring on the BBQ, or get take from your neighborhood Korean! Rich, charred meat flavors call for sustainable reds with lots of tannins and intense fruit and sometimes earthy notes. Rhone reds can be among the most animal-flavored--yes I do meant hat in a good way--of the bunch. They those tar and mineral, umami notes that can stand up to beautifully cooked meat even with a somewhat spicy marinade.

For simple preparations of meat, maybe just a strip stake made on the grill, a fruit-juicy California Cabernet Sauvignon might do the trick. Or a lower alcohol Zinfandel, once they get over 14.5+ percent of alcohol they may seem too candied to work with food.

Syrah from Walla Walla can also take on those great meal flavors, as can peppery and spicy Spanish blends based on Grenache. Argentine Malbecs are also classics, but generally for steaks with a lot of smoky charr on them and a simple marinade.

With pork loin or ribs, you could you go lighter and fruitier, maybe even uncorking a little sparkling Lambrusco from Italy or stepping back into a sustainable white from Northeastern Italy or the Rhone.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.