Playing It Safe with Wine, Food and Friends on the Fourth of July

The 2020 summer holidays are all about good food, great wine—including these 6 summer value picks—and taking the right precautions

Playing It Safe with Wine, Food and Friends on the Fourth of July
Inn at Little Washington chef Patrick O'Connell's grilled salmon is a stellar alternative to burgers and dogs. (Tim Turner)
Jun 29, 2020

Remember when a wayward firework was the biggest worry on the Fourth of July? Let’s face it: In 2020, celebrating summer holidays is complicated. And yet, the coronavirus doesn’t have to spoil all the fun of commemorating the independence of the United States of America.

If you’re planning a party this weekend, remember these three rules: Serve good food, pour great wines and keep the gathering small.

Let’s start with the last rule first, since it’s crucial. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advises that small, outdoor gatherings that include individuals from different households are a modest risk. A few guidelines to remember:

  • Give each other a wide berth, staying 6 feet apart as much as possible. Remember, the longer your interaction lasts, the higher the risk.
  • Wear face masks as you socialize, and space yourselves apart when you remove them to eat or drink.
  • Don’t share anything. Buffet serving is discouraged because guests congregate and share serving utensils.
  • Use disposable utensils, plates, cups and napkins.
  • Frequently clean and disinfect surfaces like door handles, sink faucets, hand railings, counters, tabletops, etc.
  • Keep plenty of hand sanitizer available, and encourage guests to wash their hands frequently.

And now for the fun stuff. We all know the classic food menu for July Fourth: hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, corn on the cob and, of course, pie, preferably apple. Frankly, if I don’t eat a hot dog on the Fourth, I’m disappointed. I’m a fan of the Hebrew National all-beef franks, and I love them with the works: onion, relish, mustard and ketchup. Every bite is a flashback to my Indiana childhood.

My menu this weekend includes baby back ribs from the smoker, grilled corn, deviled eggs and homemade ice cream. If you want something beyond the traditional burgers and dogs, here are three great July Fourth recipes for inspiration:

If you love ribs as much as I do, check out Michael Mina's timeless July Fourth feast of Barbecue Ribs and Jalapeño Creamed Corn.

For true carnivores, check out Denver chef Troy Guard's Quintessential American Rib Eyes and Cabernet.

And for something on the lighter side but still packed with flavor, I recommend Inn at Little Washington chef Patrick O’Connell's Chilled Salmon in a Mustard Seed Crust.

And finally, the wine. Good ol’ American wine, of course. I don’t want to knock the pleasures of a cold beer or the wines of our foreign friends. But it seems only right to drink American on Independence Day.

I’ve pulled together a mixed half-case of wines that I’ve reviewed in the past year. They hail from three regions I cover: Oregon, Washington and California. They all cost $25 or less and are made in sizeable quantities.

A To Z Wineworks Chardonnay Oregon 2018 (90 points, $15)
Snappy, with lemon and quince flavors.

Andrew Murray Syrah Santa Ynez Valley Tous Les Jours 2017 (90, $20)
Polished raspberry, licorice and pepper notes.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Chardonnay Columbia Valley 2017 (89, $11)
Sleek and supple, with easy tropical fruit flavors.

Erath Pinot Noir Oregon 2017 (90, $19)
Svelte and delicate, with raspberry and strawberry blossom accents.

Frei Brothers Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley Sonoma Reserve 2017 (88, $20)
A perky red with raspberry and grilled herb flavors.

Luke Cabernet Sauvignon Wahluke Slope 2017 (92, $25)
Blackberry, smoked spice and dusty cedar notes.

Have a great Fourth of July, and stay healthy!

Opinion Holidays / Celebrations Red Wines Values White Wines United States

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