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Wine and Hot Dogs: Let the Fireworks Begin

Time to have fun pairing wine with the traditional Fourth of July spread
Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Jun 26, 2013 11:00am ET

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?

Bill Matarese
Florida, USA —  June 26, 2013 11:51am ET
2006 The Ojai Vineyard Roll Ranch Syrah and 2006 Ridge Three Valleys Sonoma to go with the burgers and steaks from the barbecue. Also plan to have some Columbia Crest Grand Estates Chardonnay 2010 available for those who are not red wine drinkers.
Patrick Frenchick
Washington DC —  June 26, 2013 4:06pm ET
Hi Tim

While we are on BBQ's and Zinfandels I see that POTUS served up an 86 point Zin to the Chinese premier (Ridge Geyserville 86 pts (web only 2011)) at the recent summit. Was Obama keeping the best stuff for himself, or do you think it improved in the bottle? or maybe a bad bottle or bad day at the tasting room?

Or maybe Tim and Bobby Flay have different tastes in Zins?
Tim Fish
Sonoma County —  June 26, 2013 4:43pm ET
Patrick. I can't speak for Bobby, but 2011 was a challenging year for Zinfandel in some regions of Sonoma. I've tried the Geyserville numerous times blind and non-blind and believe it's not a top year for that wine. But if the White House ever needs Zin advice, I'm available.
Bill Matarese
Florida, USA —  June 26, 2013 6:17pm ET
Hey Patrick -

Thanks for pointing that out. It's nice to know that taxpayer dollars are being so carefully spent on wine at the White House ($30+ for an 86 pt wine from a bad vintage). Is everyone in every position in that entire city completely incompetent? Sure looks like it.
Patrick Frenchick
Washington DC —  June 27, 2013 11:26am ET
Actually the wine was from the 2008 vintage, WS/Tim reviewed it in 2011.

If I had dinner with POTUS and they were suggesting an 86 pt wine, I might brown bag. Maybe Bobby (or Tim) had too much BBQ sauce before tasting the wine.

But on a whole DC is pretty much non-functional, from the national government to the city government
Bill Matarese
Florida, USA —  June 28, 2013 1:59pm ET
Yeah, the 2008 Geyserville was/is pretty disappointing. I remember trying it last time I was in their tasting room on Lytton Springs Road a couple of years ago. Knew right away that it was a clunker and asked if they still had any of the 2007 available (luckily they did) so I could at least buy a couple of nice bottles while I was there.

Tim nailed that one with his 86 point score.

Tim Fish
Sonoma County —  June 28, 2013 2:43pm ET
Ah, the 2008, yes, another tough year for the Geyserville, sorry, misread the comment. Thanks everyone for reading and commenting.
Carol Hensley
Houston, TX, USA —  July 2, 2013 10:12am ET
After reading that recipe for chipotle deviled eggs on the Wine Spectator website, that's what I'll be eating ... and I think I'll go with the Frank Family Zin recommendation, too. Have a great 4th all!

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