Labor Day Wine Pairings

As we bid a fond farewell to yet another summer season, let’s celebrate with a true labor of love – a great glass of wine paired with our favorite summertime treat! Whether you are firing up the grill this holiday weekend or having a picnic on the beach, we have you covered with an array of wine that will pair perfectly with your feast.

When it comes to pairing, keep in mind that meat is often a blank canvas and finding the perfect wine has everything to do with sauces, spices and other toppings. Here’s a rundown of wine pairing recommendations for some of your favorite summer dishes.

White Wines:

Chicago Style Hot DogSauvignon Blanc – Whether it’s a mineral driven Sancerre, a refined Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc or a bold ruby red grapefruit driven Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, these dry, crisp, acidic wines with layers of citrus and fresh cut grass pairs perfectly with an array of summertime fare including:

  • Salads
  • Shellfish
  • Grilled Salmon
  • Hot Dogs w/ Relish or “Chicago Style”
  • Lemon Chicken
  • Goat Cheese & Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta

Riesling – A touch of residual sugar and piercing acidity make Riesling an exquisite pairing with many dishes including:

  • Sushi w/wasabi
  • Assorted Shellfish (Clams, Oysters, Mussels, Shrimp, Scallops, Crab)
  • Salads
  • BBQ (vinegar based)
  • Fried Chicken
  • Chesapeake Baja Burger 
  • Grilled Peach wrapped in Prosciutto w/Balsamic Glaze

Albarino – This refreshing white wine from Rias Biaxas, Spain offers exotic floral notes & bright citrus with a touch of salinity due to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. Pairs well with:

  • Assorted Shellfish (Clams, Oysters, Mussels, Shrimp, Scallops, Crab)
  • Grilled & Fried Chicken
  • Salads

Muscadet – An inexpensive varietal (most under $12) with citrus, mineral notes & a touch of salinity from the Loire Valley of France, that pairs perfectly with:

  • Assorted Shellfish (Clams, Oysters, Mussels, Shrimp, Scallops, Crab)

Vouvray – Another great wine from the Loire Valley of France, made from the Chenin Blanc grape. Vouvray tends to have a touch of sweetness that makes for an excellent pairing with seafood and foods with a touch of spice. o

  • Assorted Shellfish (Clams, Oysters, Mussels, Shrimp, Scallops, Crab Legs)
  • Crabacado “Shrimp” Rolls
  • Grilled Chicken

Red Wines:

Beaujolais – Similar to a Pinot Noir, this dry fruity red made from the Gamay grape from southern France is a perfect light-medium bodied summer red. Serve slightly chilled with:

  • BBQ Chicken
  • Mushroom Swiss Burgers
  • Grilled Salmon
  • Italian Sandwiches

Pinot Noir  – A classic & elegant medium bodied wine with red fruit notes, a hint of spice & moderate tannins pairs  well with:

  • Mushroom Swiss Burger
  • Cedar Plank Salmon o BBQ Chicken
  • Brie & Raspberry Phyllo Cups

Syrah/Shiraz – The French style from the Rhone Valley boasts more meaty characteristics like bacon, while the Australian and American style are more fruit driven. A young Syrah from northern Rhone tends to have moderate tannins and a little smokiness that goes great with: 

Zinfandel – The high acidity, tannic structure,  jammy notes and hint of spice make Zinfandel a perfect match for:

  • Steaks
  • Bacon Blue Cheeseburgers
  • Baby Back Ribs
  • Chili Cheese Dogs

Tempranillo – Look for Rioja or Tempranillo on the label. Rioja is a region in Spain that makes a full bodied red wine from the Tempranillo grape. This is a versatile, great value red that works with many dishes including:

  • Steak Chimichurri
  • Steak Fajitas
  • Baby Back Ribs
  • Steaks
  • Aged Cheddar Burgers

Rosé Wines: 

This is not your grandmother’s White Zinfandel! A dry rosé is a great bridge wine that pairs well with everything from shrimp salad to cheeseburgers. Rosé is made from an array of red varietals. The common ones are Pinot Noir, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault & Tempranillo. Some winemakers blend in a little white wine to bring out citrus notes in the final product. It’s the best of both worlds, a chilled wine with notes and flavors of red wine that make a great addition to your picnic & barbecue fare

  • Sandwiches
  • Salads
  • Pasta Salad
  • Seafood/Shellfish
  • Fried Chicken
  • Grilled Veggies w/Balsamic Glaze

PAIRING NOTE: If your favorite dish has some spice, stick with a demi-sec sparkling, Riesling with a touch of residual sugar or a fruit forward red with low tannins and lower alcohol. Alcohol exacerbates the heat in your food. Also when it comes to salads, a high acid white wine without oak works well because it mirrors the acidity in most salad dressings. However watch the endive, radichhio & arugula – the spice can leave a bitter taste on your back palate.




Photo Credits:

Chicago Style Hot Dog: <a href=””>star5112</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>cc</a>

Patriotic Pours

The unofficial start of summer is just days away.  As you prepare to fire up the grill, slather on the sunscreen and celebrate with family and friends, don’t forget to stock up on some great vino for your long holiday weekend.  Let’s also take a moment to pause and raise a glass to salute our fallen heroes and their families and give thanks for our freedom.

From California to Virginia, I have selected 10 all American wines under $30 that are perfect for the backyard or the beach!

Taste of the States

Gruet Extra Dry, New Mexico ($15) – This sparkler is perfect for entertaining. The Gruet family comes from Champagne, France and they are producing excellent sparkling wines using the traditional method. Sparkling wines boast vibrant acidity that is light and refreshing and a perfect pairing with many different cuisines. This wine reminds me of summer. Gorgeous notes of juicy peach and vibrant sweet lime juice remind me of a peach margarita with effervescence. Creamy and dry on the finish with a touch of honeysuckle sweetness. Keep in mind that brut is actually the driest form of sparkling not dry.

Pair with sushi, ceviche, fish tacos, grilled seafood, chicken & pork 

2013 Abiouness Rosé, Carneros, California ($20) – This rosé made from Pinot Noir is a perfect go to wine this summer. It’s fruity, dry & crisp.

Pairs with grilled seafood, grilled chicken, picnic fare & cheese plates

2013 Charles & Charles Rosé, Columbia Valley, Washington State ($12) – This dry fruity rosé from Washington State uses Rhone varietals (Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache & Cinsault). Sweet  summer raspberries, cherry, rosemary, hints of rose petals and a touch of spice are prominent on the nose. The palate is reminscint of strawberry shortcake – creamy & delicious! A Wine Spectator best value.

Pair with grilled salmon with cherry glaze, grilled shrimp, chicken, picnic fare & delicate cheeses like brie & feta

2012 Emmolo Sauvignon Blanc, Napa, California ($17) – Sauvignon Blancs remind of summertime. Notes of fresh cut grass and citrus remind me of the backyard barbecues of my childhood. This wine is part of the Caymus collection. Aromas of lemon curd, lime zest, fleshy grapefruit, pear and wet stone are dominant on the nose. A wine with vibrant acidity makes it a perfect food partner.

Pair with Chicago style hot dogs (with pickles & celery seed), hummus, shrimp cocktail, grilled seafood & goat cheese

Chatham Vineyards Church Creek “Steel” Chardonnay Eastern Shore, Virginia ($17) –  Yes, you read this right, a Virginia Chardonnay! Chatham uses dijon clones in this lovely wine from the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Delicate aromas of juicy pear, gala apple, lemon curd and melon lead to a dry crisp and refreshing finish on the palate. This wine drinks more like a Burgundy than an American Chardonnay.

Pair with grilled seafood, sushi, oysters and peel & eat shrimp. 

Jefferson Viognier, Charlottesville, Virginia ($28) – It doesn’t get more American than wines that bear the Thomas Jefferson namesake. Jefferson painstakingly tried to make wine for more than 30 years and never produced a single bottle. Things have certainly changed over the past 200 years at his Charlottesville estate. Viognier is Virginia’s signature grape. Similar in body to a Chardonnay with a beautiful aromatic nose similar to a Riesling. This wine is a crowd pleaser. Notes of stone & tropical fruit are dominant on the nose with a hint of orange blossom. The palate boasts sweet pineapple, kiwi, ripe peach, lemon & lime with a hint of white pepper. The wine has a dry, creamy finish.

Pair with grilled swordfish or crab cakes with a pinepple salsa or try it with Thai food. 

Chesapeake Baja Burger

Eroica Riesling, Washington State ($20) – An amazing partnership between the king of German Riesling  Dr. Loosen and a premiere Washington State producer Chateau Ste. Michelle have created an exquisite American Riesling.  This off dry Riesling boasts aromas of mandarin orange, baked spiced apples and a hint of stone fruit that gives way to a palate with refreshing acidity.  A touch of residual sugar makes this an excellent pairing with spicy foods. Love this with a Chesapeake Baja Burger!

Pairs with Thai food, sushi, an array of seafood & salads

Talbott Kali Hart Pinot Noir, Monterey, California ($20) – This 100% estate grown fruit is a tremendous value. Finding a good Pinot Noir for $20 or less is like finding a needle in a haystack. They are one of the most finicky grapes to grow, often called the heartbreak grape. Winemaker Dan Karslen spent most of his career working in Burgundy, France and has a certain finesse when it comes to crafting good quality Pinot. The Kali Hart is Talbott’s entry level Pinot and what a delight it is! On the nose you’ll discover cranberry, plum & raspberry with hint of baking spice and vanilla.  Great value! If you want to splurge a little, pick up a bottle of the Talbott Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Pinot Noir ($40).

Pair with grilled chicken marinated in balsamic dressing or grilled salmon on a cedar plank 

Writer’s Block Syrah, Lake County, California ($16) This California Syrah is more similar to the Rhone Valley style rather than  Australian Shiraz. This wine has notes of dark berries, dusty violet, bacon, pepper with hints of mocha. This a nice value Syrah. Grab a bacon bleu cheeseburger and a glass of this and you will have a party on your palate!

Pair with ribs, burgers and steaks 

Plungerhead Zinfandel, Lodi, California ($15) – A good value Old Vine Zinfandel. Layers of baked black and red fruit with vanilla, pepper, sweet spice and hazelnut are apparent on the nose. The palate of baked spiced fruit with dark chocolate does not disappoint. The winemaker uses a blend of American & French oak.

Pair with short rib sliders with bacon blue slaw, spicy grilled sausages & burgers