Wine Pairings for Summer Food

Filed in Food and Wine by on February 18, 2014

WinePairing-HarringtonImageLocal wine experts match wines to your favorite summertime dishes

Summer’s a great time to gather friends, fire up the grill and pop open a cold bottle of … wine?

Yes, you read that right. Wine can be a wonderful accompaniment to summertime foods. And we’re not just talking about a Riesling with strawberries. Minnesota wineries are creating award-winning wines that pair well with many warm-weather staples.

The wineries

With the development of cold-hardy grapes such as the Marquette or Frontenac, wineries in Minnesota have taken off. But in true Minnesota style, many also use ingredients more commonly found here, such as apples, raspberries and rhubarb.

Forestedge Winery in Laporte doesn’t use any grapes in its wines. Instead its wine list is filled with other locally sourced fruits. And rhubarb, that sour stalk more commonly found in pies and crisp. Co-owner and winemaker Paul Shuster says the winery uses 5 tons of rhubarb a year to makes its wines. Rhubarb and Raspberry Rhubarb are best sellers.

Carlos Creek Winery in Alexandria also uses plenty of local produce, including apples for its apple wine. It grows its own cold-climate grapes and buys more from local producers. Valiant grapes are used in its best-selling Hot Dish Red, and its You Betcha Blush uses three northern varieties. But the winery also offers some more-familiar styles such as Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.

Richwood Winery in Callaway is strictly a grape winery. LaCrescent, Marquette and Frontenac Gris grapes grow on the property, and other varieties are brought in from California. The Marquette grapes give Richwood’s signature red wine a dry, bold, cherry-type flavor, says Richwood co-founder Penny Aguirre. Rosie’s Red and the award-winning Lady Sipper include blue agave nectar, which lends a natural sweetness to the wines.

The “rules”

Tami Bredeson, president of Carlos Creek Winery, notes that warmer weather calls for cooler drinks. That goes for wine, too. Fortunately, many Minnesota wines are lower in tannins, making them suitable for chilling.

“A nice chillable red with a steak that you grill outside makes a great summertime wine,” Bredeson says.

Tradition says to pair red wine with red meat and white wine with white meat. But what about a heavily spiced, marinated chicken on the grill? That actually goes well with a red wine, Bredeson notes. Her suggestion is to instead consider flavors. Pair similar flavors or contrasting flavors. For example, an apple wine plays off a green salad topped with apples, pecans and dried cranberries but offers a sweet contrast to a salty, meaty pork chop.

The wine

Minnesota summers are too short to waste agonizing over your wine list. So we asked Shuster, Bredeson and Aguirre to offer suggestions for pairing their wines with summertime foods. Here is what they said:

Steaks and pork chops on the grill: Wines with higher acids and higher tannins pair well with fattier, full-flavored foods, Bredeson says. Both Bredeson and Aguirre recommend their Marquette wines with steaks and chops (maybe even with some wine added to the marinade). Shuster’s best-selling Black Currant is his choice for red meat, although he’s found that drinking his Blueberry wine with a prime rib is a “wonderful alternative to a red grape.”

Hamburgers and brats: Move over, beer. Bredeson calls her sparkling Aurora the “perfect burger wine” — enough crisp acid to cut the fat, very chillable and thirst-quenching. Aguirre recommends Richwood’s Merlot. And Shuster says his Apple wine adds zing to a locally made apple wine brat.

Fish: No surprises here — whites reign. “Rhubarb is pretty much the semi-unofficial walleye wine,” Shuster jokes. And the label of Carlos Creek’s Wobegon White claims it “Drinks Well With Walleye.” Aguirre prefers her LaCrescent with this lighter protein.

Kabobs/spicy foods: “If the wine is too light, it gets overpowered by the spice and it tastes like nothing,” Aguirre notes. “When you have the sweetness with that spiciness, it seems to work really well.” She goes with Frontenac Gris. Bredeson suggests her White Marquette. But if you’re making a curry dish, try her You Betcha Blush. Shuster’s sweeter white is the White Cranberry.

Salads: Aguirre recommends letting your dressing be your guide. Ranch or bleu cheese might take a Marquette, while a lighter vinaigrette pairs better with her LaCrescent.  Adding fruit to your salad? Bredeson’s Apple Blueberry might bring out those flavors. The chokecherry and rhubarb in Headwaters Classic Red complement a wild rice salad, Shuster says.

Hors d’oeuvres: Lighter fare, lighter wines. Shuster says Forestedge’s sweet-sour Apple wine goes well with outside party foods, and the Pear wine is light enough to serve before a “serious supper.” Aguirre rarely drinks Lady Sipper with meals — “it’s a refreshing afternoon glass of wine with light hors d’oeuvres,” she says. The Unity chardonnay from Carlos Creek is a match for many cheeses.

Dessert/fruits: Looking for an easy end to the meal? Peach Street “serves really well with a dish of vanilla ice cream,” says Bredeson. Need more decadence? Pair chocolate and Forestedge’s Raspberry wine. Going light? Layer flavor with Lady Sipper and peaches or strawberries.

“The nice thing about summertime is that people are more apt to eat local,” Shuster says. A locally crafted wine is a perfect match. Look for these wines at your local wine shop or liquor store. All three wineries also sell their wines on site and offer tastings and tours during the summer.

Emily King is a writer from St. Paul.





Tags: , , ,