Monday, June 30, 2014

Wines for the Fourth of July

By Liza B. Zimmerman

The 4th is all about grilling, eating outside and picnicking. The food and wine festivities can go in a couple of different directions, so here are a few suggestions. If you go with the classic meat route, you will want some big, spicy reds. They could range from Cabernet Sauvignons to Zins and even Syrahs these days.

Big meaty Cabs like Charles Smith’s “Chateau Smith” will fit the bill. Walla Walla Cabs have some inky, dusty notes—from the hot days—that can make them excel with grilled meats. L’Ecole 41 is another gem from the same area. Warwick Estate also makes some beautiful wines from the Cape.

Sobon Estate’s Zins from Amador County are amazing and a bargain.  They are also supremely balanced, which you don’t always get in regions with such hot days. When I taught wine education at no longer existent Copia wine center in the Napa Valley, we always used the Fiddletown as an example of an exceptional Zin.

Walla Walla, sorry to be repetitive about one of my favorite regions, may make even better Syrahs than it does Cabernets. Reynvaan is a great producer. Don’t forget that the South Africans also jam when they make Syrahs, such as Nederburg. They even mix the grape up, with great success, in some of their blends. A handful of Sonoma Coast Syrahs might be big, and full bodied enough to stand up to BBQ. I love the Rhônes but they are probably, in great part, too subtle to do the job.

A Little Fish on the Grill
Not every BBQ needs to feature meat. Cooking up a little salmon or searing a great tuna, on the grill also works. If you live in a city, as I do, you can broil those babies to crispy perfection without a lot of oil and fuss as well.

The Oregon Pinots have the acidity, and often lightness of body, to pair with but not overwhelm a fish. Eyrie is a great producer and A to Z is an amazing bargain for delicious wine. If you want to get a little creative with your pairings, go for elegant northern Italian reds. Barbera is divine, in my book, with almost everything. If you want to step it up a notch Produttori del Barbaresco is one of the best producers in Piedmonte. It has stunned the world again and again with its beautifully consistent wines despite having the somewhat negative stigma of being a cooperative. Above I am enjoying a little piece of heaven in a visit a few years ago to the cooperative’s Piedmonte headquarters with my best friend Tony Raftopol.

Create Your Own Picnic
For decades in New York my family had Fourth of July celebrations in Central Park. The year it rained we ate in the hallway and drew ants on pieces of paper that were scattered all over the blanket (it might have been even more fun!).

My mother’s best friend always made lobster salad. It was beautifully composed and a delight to eat: although not always so easy with plastic forks. As the intrepid wine writer in the family I always organized the wine pairings. It was a decade or so of bubbles, bubbles, bubbles and some high-acid whites. Prosecco, and Cava, as well as Loire sparklers are affordable solutions to the Champagne quandary. You can also pretend that Gruet is French as it looks, and almost tastes, the part. A bit of a creamy Chardonnay or an Albariño would also be divine.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza 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.

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