In recent years, we’ve witnessed an increasing influence of winemaking on craft brewing, and vice versa, from the new generation of Italian grape ales connecting brewers with their regions’ rich and diverse viticulture, to the innovative vintners adding hops to their wines. Then, there are even those protean producers starting businesses to create both alcoholic beverages on their properties.
It’s safe to say that most, if not all, brewers who use winemaking techniques and ingredients to add new dimensions and depths of flavor to their beers also enjoy drinking wine. No doubt, find a specialist of wild or mixed-fermentation ales and you’ll find a fan of pét-nats. That got us curious about the kinds of wines these brewers choose to drink regularly, and the reasons why they go back to them again and again.
So, we reached out to beer producers across the country — those that explore the nexus of grain and grape in their offerings — about their favorite go-to wines. From the Basque Country’s Txakoli to California and Oregon Pinot Noir, here are the experts’ picks.
The Best Go-To Wines Recommended by Brewers:
- Domaine Matassa Cuvee Marguerite
- Ameztoi Getariako Txakolina
- Meiomi Pinot Noir
- Domaine Louis Michel and Fils Chablis
- Merkin Vineyards Chupacabra Blanca
- Two Shepherds Wiley Carbonic Carignan 2019
- Parsonage Cyrano Red
- Broadbent Vinho Verde
- The Marigny Carbonic Pinot Noir
- Costadilà Bianco Frizzante
- Stolpman Love You Bunches
- Josh Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon
- Chehalem Mountain Pinot Noir
Keep reading for details about all of the recommended wines!
“Tom Lubbe of Domaine Matassa in France produces exceptional wines using organic and biodynamic practices. The Cuvee Marguerite stood out because it reminded me of a complex lambic. It’s floral in the aroma with hints of aged hops and some barnyard funk. It has a gorgeous brettanomyces-like character in flavor, balanced with a grapefruit-pith bitterness and acidity. It essentially blew my mind and taste buds immediately on the first sip.” —Tim Zydek, Lead Brewer, Little Beast Brewing, Portland, Ore.
“The unsung hero of Basque Country, Txakoli has this lovely, subtle carbonation that bridges the gap between a still wine and a more traditional sparkler. Ameztoi’s Getariako Txakolina, in particular, has a killer balance of acidity and minerality, lots of quenchable green apple notes, and some herbaceous depth that really sets it apart. A fun wine by any standard, but at $20 and around 11 percent ABV it’s a perfect go-to for an aperitivo situation with friends, or a cheeky warm-weather afternoon bottle.“ —Luke Fuhrman, Founder, Weaver Hollow Brewery, Andes, N.Y.
“Meiomi Pinot Noir, a beautifully dry red wine with dried fruit and slight chocolate notes. Cost effective and delicious. I always have a bottle on hand.” —Aaron Inkrott, Brewing Innovation Manager, Saint Arnold Brewing Company, Houston
“My go-to wine preference has shifted over the years from big, bold California Cabs to more delicate white Burgundy, often Chablis. Domaine Louis Michel and Fils makes a great Chablis that stands out in all the best aspects of the style, while still fitting a brewer’s salary. To me, Chablis is the well-made pilsner of wines. Both can be either easily enjoyed without demanding deeper thought or a stunning experience to be contemplated, depending on what you’re looking for.” —Clay Baines, Brewmaster, Jailbreak Brewing Company, Laurel, Md.
“When my wife and I moved from Maine to Arizona, we were not only excited to no longer have to shovel snow, but also to have easy access to Merkin Vineyards. These Arizona-produced wines are the brainchild of Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan. The Chupacabra Blanca is a blend of Riesling, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc, with flavors of pear, green apple, and citrus. It’s sweet like a Riesling without being cloying. The addition of the Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc brings subtle butter and mineral notes, respectively. It makes for a wonderful wine to enjoy in the backyard during a warm Arizona evening.” —Matthew Tattersall, Head Brewer, The Shop Beer Co., Tempe, Ariz.
“The carbonic maceration process has been one of the more popular winemaking techniques borrowed by brewers who work with whole fruits recently, and the Two Shepherds Wiley Carbonic Carignan 2019 showcases the process’s unique fruity results perfectly. Fresh cranberry and strawberry pop immediately, finished by quenching notes of earthy, zippy rhubarb. The slightest amount of residual carbonation fizz and bright acidity make this dangerously poundable. Tons of dark fruit and earth without the tannic weight, a great go-to weeknight wine for me lately.” —Nicholas Pauley, Head Brewer, Fair Isle Brewing, Seattle
“My go-to wine is Parsonage Cyrano Red from Carmel, Calif., made from a big, jammy, rich blend of Syrah and Merlot. I’m in a wine dinner group that tastes through Parsonage’s vintages typically twice a year. It’s special to be the only East Coast folks that we know of that owner Bill Parsons gives this opportunity to, and we have been doing it for well over 10 years now.” —Neil Burton, Founder, Strangeways Brewing, Richmond and Fredericksburg, Va.
“I’m a big fan of vinho verde, especially in the spring and summer months. Most often, I gravitate towards Broadbent Vinho Verde. I love how the combination of its dry minerality and light effervescence make it so refreshing. I’ve always felt it’s fairly overlooked, which is a shame especially since it usually won’t break the bank for a great bottle.” —Ted O’ Hanlan, Head Brewer, Bow and Arrow Brewing Co., Albuquerque, N.M.
“One of my personal favorite wines, and truly one that got me obsessed with the ‘natural wine movement‘ is the Carbonic Pinot Noir by Oregon producer the Marigny. The first time I had it, I was sitting at L’Oursin here in Seattle, and Kathryn [Olson, wine director] offered me a pour. I was blown away and remember immediately wondering when I would ever get to try it again. A few weeks later, I was sitting at Compere Lapin in New Orleans and saw a bottle sitting off to the side. They said it wasn’t on their list but the somm saw my excitement and opened it for us to share (gotta love New Orleans). Some time later, I befriended the winemaker, a wonderful human named Andy Young who is himself every bit as electric as his wines, and my love for this beverage became eternal. It’s pretty hyped now, thanks in part to Bon Appetit, but it’s still affordable, elegant, crushable, and above all else, memorable.” —Chris Elford, Founder, Here Today Brewery and Kitchen, Seattle
“Ernesto Cattel, founder and winemaker of Costadilà in Veneto, Italy, primed the festival-drinking public to taste his wine by saying, ‘It’s a bit like a geuze.’ Bright golden and lees-y with a fine natural sparkle from a final torchiato addition, I could drink any of these Bianco Frizzante bottlings on any beautiful day. When I visited Ernesto on a beautiful day in 2016 to learn all I could of his joyful but principled and holistic view of wine growing, the vineyards were a chaos of activity with wild blackberries and hops entendrilled in the vines. The cellar was a chaos of activity with different fermentative experiments at every turn, and that chaos carries through to each bottle where it finally fully coheres. Ernesto passed in 2018, but the whole Costadilà team is presently carrying the torch with the same adherence to nature he insisted upon for their wines.” —James Priest, Founder, The Referend Bier Blendery, Pennington, N.J.
“When the weather is warm, which is most of the year in Southern California, I find myself gravitating towards chillable red wines, usually low-tannin and high-acid. Not only are these wines usually a bit lower in alcohol, they are also versatile with many different types of food, and fun to drink. While a lot of chillable reds are made from Gamay, my go-to, California-made example is made out of Sangiovese from Ballard Canyon: Stolpman’s Love You Bunches, fermented wholly via carbonic maceration. This style of fermentation tames tannin and reinforces the fruit character while keeping acid. Not an overly complex wine, but very tasty. Bright acid and very aromatic with tart cherry, raspberry, strawberry, pomegranate aromas, and hints of tobacco and white pepper. Year after year, it’s always a very crushable wine!” —Andrew Bell, Director of Brewing Operations, Radiant Beer Co., Anaheim, Calif.
“As a go-to red wine, we really enjoy the Josh Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon. Readily available and under $20, it’s a perfect complement to any dish or to enjoy on the back porch, even during warmer months. We love the balance of the red fruits and fresh leather on the nose, and the big burst of fruits on the sip is complemented by subtle cola and oak mid-palate as the red fruits come back out to round out the finish. Not heavy at all for a Cab, and sure to please wine drinkers of all types.” —Shawn Johnson, Founder, Birds Fly South Ale Project, Greenville, S.C.
“The Chehalem Mountain Pinot Noir, formerly known as the Three Vineyard Pinot Noir, from Chehalem Winery has been a go-to of mine for many years. Made with grapes harvested from Chehalem’s three estate vineyards in the AVA for which it’s named, the Chehalem Mountain captures all the quintessential flavors of the region’s terroir without breaking the bank. With notes of red and black bramble fruit, earth, spice, and just a hint of oak, this wine consistently offers lots of complexity without being pretentious. With lively acidity and soft tannic structure, it’s incredibly food friendly across a broad range of flavors, though fresh salmon is always my preferred dish. The team at Chehalem Winery has been producing top-notch wines for longer than most other wineries in the Willamette Valley have been in existence, and the sophistication of their work reflects that legacy. Are there more sophisticated or nuanced Oregon Pinots on the market? Sure. But, dollar for dollar, few offer the level of quality and complexity that is so true to place as the Chehalem Mountain Pinot Noir.” —Kevin Martin, Director of Brewery Operations, Cascade Brewing, Portland, Ore.