Nail biting over the wine to drink with Thanksgiving dinner pales next to the challenge of pairing wine with a classic Fourth of July barbecue. That's one reason so many Americans reach for a beer.
I'm something of an anarchist when it comes to food and wine. There's too much fuss put into finding the seamless match in my view. Seamlessness is boring. I prefer a wine that offers a playful contrast and enhances the food or brings out something new.
And face it, if you can't be playful and have fun with food and wine on July 4, then you don't deserve to watch the fireworks.
Let's start with the all-American spread of hamburgers and hot dogs, fresh corn on the cob and potato salad, finished with a slice of apple pie. The delicious cliché of Independence Day.
What to drink with a burger really depends on what you stack on it, whether it's cheese or onions or tomatoes. My go-to wine is a lighter-style California Zinfandel, which has the richness to go with the beef and the jammy fruit that handles all the fixins. Two good examples on the market now are the Green & Red Zinfandel Napa Valley Chiles Canyon Vineyards 2010 (88 points, $23) and the just-released Frei Brothers Zinfandel Reserve Dry Creek Valley 2011 ($20)
A wine-and–hot dog pairing is not something you'll find on the Master Sommelier test, but hey, go with the flow. Like a good burger, what to sip with your dog depends on what you slather it with. For me, a good Beaujolais is the way to go. Two of the best and most widely available are Georges Duboeuf Moulin-à-Vent Flower Label 2011 (90, $15) and Henry Fessy Brouilly 2010 (87, $18.)
While corn on the cob and potato salad have different flavor profiles, they call for a similar wine: a crisp white with just a touch of fruity sweetness. A great value in that department is Big House White California 2011 ($10), which is a kitchen-sink blend of Viognier, Malvasia Bianca, Grüner Veltliner and more. Also look for Navarro Gewürztraminer Anderson Valley Dry 2011 (88, $20) and St. Supéry Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley 2012 (88, $20)
When it comes to dessert, I like a contrast. Combine a cloyingly sweet wine with a sweet dessert and my teeth hurt. With apple pie, I like a white that's snappy and fresh but has a lingering hint of sweetness. A good crémant sparkling wine or Italian Prosecco would do the trick but even better is a dryish Moscato. Most of the California Moscatos are too syrupy for my tastes, so I go straight to Italy. Seek out the Saracco Moscato d'Asti 2011 ($14) or Castello del Poggio Moscato d'Asti 2011 (86, $16.)
So, what are you eating on Independence Day? And what do you plan to drink?