Feeling a bit, warm? Well, it IS that time of year, again… so let’s chill up some wine.
Of course you can drink any kind of wine, any time you like. But I find, generally speaking, that as the weather warms up, wine drinkers naturally shift to lighter, chilled whites and rosés. If you’re with me on this, I’ve got some tasty recommendations here, and some easy food pairing tips, that should help kick your experience up a few notches.
Wine Pairing Basics
Wine can be difficult to understand, and wine pairing, downright impossible for many. But I’d really like to sell you on the idea of pairing wine and food together, because when it’s done right – it can be existential. In the best scenarios, the two things come together to make something greater than the sum of its parts.
Without getting too technical, my simple advice for partnering wine and food is this: Think of wine, as a food. Every glass contains a profile of familiar flavors, layered together. For example, some wines are dominant with red fruit flavors. Some can be herbal like strong tea, or savory like a steak. Some wines are nutty, toasty, or woody.
When you know the basic character profile of a wine, it makes it much easier to partner up with food. You can guess that an herbaceous white wine would probably go well with an herb-rubbed chicken. And a fruity red wine that tastes like raspberries, is going to be great with a creamy brie.
If you’d like to go deeper yet, check out my video, above, on the right.
And with that, I’d like to share five exciting wines with you, give you a little background, flavor profile and then a few easy foods that should be a sublime partner for any of these selections.
Kelly and Chris Sparkman launched Sparkman Cellars in Woodinville, Washington in 2004 to focus on their family, of all things. They believe wine and winemaking brings people together. “Fusing Art, Science, Agriculture, Philosophy and all the Good Stuff from Life into a bottle of wine that we are proud of, is both a challenge and a reward,” says Chris.
The Wine: Made with French Rousanne, Grenache blanc and Marsanne, Apparition, “attacks,” the nose with exotic Asian spices, parafin wax and almond extract. The palate is full, with layers of nectarine, honey, peaches and lychee. It was aged in neutral oak and on the lees for a fresh, but creamy, finish.
Pairing: Whenever you have a white wine that exhibits exotic fruit and spice flavors, the first place my thoughts go to – ginger. Crisp, dry white wines like Apparition, work so well with sushi and Thai foods because they’re clean and refreshing. They don’t get in the way of the food, as much as they float over top of it. And ginger, just explodes when it’s combined with fruity flavors.
If you prefer something a little more savory, try making some Coronation Chicken Salad. This dish uses ginger, plus curry, too.
Sheldrake Point Winery, located on Cayuga Lake in New York’s Finger Lakes region, has been in business since 1998. The 160 acre lakeshore site was operated as an orchard and dairy farm from 1850 until the mid 1980s. Owners Chuck Tauck and Fran Littin transformed the property into today’s winery and vineyard.
The Wine: The Finger Lakes region is quickly becoming known for its award-winning, Germanic-style white wines. This beautiful Riesling smells of ripe peach and tropical fruit, perfect for warm weather. Light hints of lime and lemon peel create a tangy mouth-feel and a refreshing, soft, mineral finish.
Pairing: This is clean a versatile wine, and would go well with sweet and savory appetizers as well as seafood dishes, whether you’re doing grilled cajun shrimp or pesto pasta, it doesn’t get more light and summery than this.
Dry Riesling is also fantastic with honey-glazed hams and Thanksgiving turkey, so if you’re looking for a summery version, go with a lighter ham and corn chowder, or a grilled turkey panini.
Gilbert Cellars is a small family winery in Yakima, WA that began in the late 1800s as a fruit farm. Within sight of their own family mountain (seen on the label), Owners Charlie and Gloria Gilbert now make wines that showcase what (they feel) Washington grapes are all about. They want the pure flavors to shine through unimpeded, into the glass, so people can “taste,” Washington – crisp, pure, clear and intense.
The Wine: This 2015 rosé is made in the style of the wines of southern France, from the Mourvedré and Grenache grapes. It displays a wonderful perfumed character interlaced with grapefruit, peach and white pepper. Vibrant and intense, like the glacial water that flows down from the Tetons, the wine is soft and juicy in the mouth.
Pairing: The Gilbert rosé has flavors of grapefruit, peach, and a snap of white pepper on the finish. In this case, I suggest we mirror all of those flavors and pair it up with a watermelon, blue cheese, and arugula salad. The tanginess of the blue cheese locks in with the wine’s tang, the sweet watermelon fruit plays alongside the peach, and the spicy arugula links up those white pepper notes. If you prefer a less-peppery experience, drizzle some honey in for a hint of sweetness.
Located in the legendary Sonoma Valley of California, Highway 12 Winery (also the main thoroughfare) is a project founded by fourth-generation winemaker Michael Sebastiani and partner Paul Giusto. This region has been at the heart of Northern California’s Wine Country since the first plantings in 1825, and the two partners wanted to pay homage to Sonoma’s rich wine tradition. If you want the full story, we did a feature article on Highway 12 here.
The Wine: This rose is made from Pinot noir, and has a beautiful salmon hue. Peach and white blossoms are the first things that come up on the nose. The wine is bright and acidic, with some weight on the palate, it’s clean, balanced by soft yet subtle strawberry, watermelon and a touch of wet river stone (mineral).
Pairing: This wine tends to lean more in the direction of red fruit and juicy berry, and would be a great pairing with a fruity, roasted beet dish. Goat cheese and beets are a solid duo, and the creaminess of that cheese will be a good balance for the sharp acids in this wine. If you want to go more complex, you can either add some slices of salty duck prosciutto, toasted sunflower seeds, and even some cracked black pepper to bring those floral notes out.
The Wine: Made from 100% Cabernet franc, The 2014 rosé is floral and fruity, with an interesting herbal scent. It makes me think of orange peels, strawberries and sage. The sage/herbal smell is neat; typical of the Cab Franc grape when grown in a cooler climate. It’s zingy, acidic and lively, and you get this rush of tangy grapefruit, berries and even some minerals as it fades out on your tongue.
Pairing: I’m homing in on that sage/herbal scent and thinking we’d do well to pair this up with grilled pork chops, rubbed with either sage or rosemary. I also have a recipe here for a sage and citrus balsamic loin that you might want to try. The wine is crisp and bright enough that it can hold up to the weight of the pork, especially if you throw it on the grill and get some caramelization going.
No, like, really cool. Just as much as I love watching the seasons change, I also enjoy the range of moods and flavors that seem to go along with seasonal wine choices, too. Wine doesn’t have to be complicated, it doesn’t have to be expensive, and you certainly doesn’t have to follow anyone’s rules. Just chill up a bottle or two and follow your instincts.
That being said, I hope these suggestions will bring you tons of pleasure this season, and feel free to reach out to me to share your thoughts and ideas, too!