Almost every wine made in America is from European grapes. Then again, most Americans are also from somewhere else. In the Old World, the grow-together, go-together idea is inherent. Sipping a Sauvignon Blanc in Sancerre with goat cheese topped with walnuts, honey, and cracked black pepper, or a trout fresh out of the Loire River, is a dream. Eating a steak Florentine in the hills of Chianti while sipping on a Chianti Classico is divine. These are not just traditions, but natural pairings from native ingredients that have been enjoyed together for centuries.
Over the past couple centuries, as Americans have built our country, we have also built our own food traditions. Every state in the union has at least one dish it can call its own. But our wine and food cultures have been on different paths until recently. Maybe our country hasn’t been around long enough to have a grow-together, go-together tradition with food and wine.
But I am seeing a convergence. Whether it’s fried chicken or cheesesteaks, California rolls or chicken wings, we think a little bit more about the pieces that put these classics together. And with ever-evolving and exciting winemaking and drinking cultures, and more focused, tastier foods, our grow-together, go-together culture is, well, coming together. I feel we are creating our own version of it.
With American Wine Month here at VinePair in full swing, I’ve been thinking about American wines I would sip with American dishes. Whether they are made with organic ingredients, cooked on a greasy planche, battered in grandma’s kitchen, or ordered from KFC (or Popeyes, geez), there is an American wine that will pair with every American classic. Here are some dishes I would happily house with a glass of American wine.
It began with a suggestion from a boxer in Buffalo, became a New York staple, and then spread like wildfire (pun intended) across the U.S. John Young was the King of Wings, his recipe inspired the Bellisimo family at the Anchor Bar on North and Main Street to run with the idea, and the Buffalo wing was born. There are so many different styles of this classic, but it’s often about the spice in that sauce. The soft, slightly sweet balance of this Finger Lakes Riesling is a delicious match with the spice of a wing. It has frothy acidity, a soft palate, and that sweet kiss will calm the heat.
VinePair Rating: 91
Connecticut may have the first documentation of it and, sure, New York may have a version, but the lobster roll is truly a Pine Tree State thing. This Maine staple is a buttery, creamy dream on a toasted hot dog bun. There is a certain joy that overtakes you when eating a lobster roll. I don’t totally understand it, but I relish every bite. This wine will add to that bliss. It has a nice, full palate, with salty acidity and river-rock minerality. The depth will hold up to the butter, and the acidity keeps it tart, complementing the delicious lobster meat.
VinePair Rating: 90
Avocado, crab meat, mayonnaise, and cucumber rolled inside out, with sesame seeds or tobiko-topped rice, is just so maddeningly good. It’s the roll you always order too much of and can’t stop until you eat it all. With a big ol’ dollop of wasabi that brings that unique heat, you can’t go wrong with this extremely balanced and expressive Gewürztraminer from Sonoma. Which makes sense, since this roll is a California native. It smells like honey, white flowers and fresh sliced pears with vibrant acidity. It will soften the wasabi hit and complement all those awesome ingredients with tart fruit.
VinePair Rating: 93
Philly Cheesesteak + Thacher Glenrose Vineyard Cinsaut
Whether it’s Geno’s or Pat’s, your own home concoction, or Steak-umms and Cheez Whiz, the sweet meat and savory onion provide awesome acidity for a chilled red wine. And the cheese is just the gooey awesomeness of my dreams. This light-ish red wine, after 30 minutes in the fridge, would be a stupid-good pairing. It’s ripe and zippy, and smells like brambly berries with a waft of cinnamon and mint. It’ll match juicy steak and add a little complexity to the cheesiness.
VinePair Rating: 91
Pulled pork + Bonny Doon Vineyard Le Cigare Volant
Rubbed pork shoulder slow cooked (and I mean slow), then smoked over hickory staves, slathered in BBQ sauce, and slapped between a toasted burger bun may just define the south. The smokey meat and sweet and spicy vinegar-based sauce would be sublime with a chilled red with a little more weight. This wine has a vibrant fruit core and smells like berries and fresh soil. Its earthiness is matched by great acidity, allowing you to chill it a bit, and the slight weight will amplify the pork on the palate.
VinePair Rating: 92
Fried Chicken + Piper Sonoma Brut
This is one of my favorite wine and food pairings. So many grandmas. So many secret recipes. Crispy, a little greasy, salty, and crunchy, fried chicken on its own is a joy. But throw in a bottle of bubbly, and the whole experience shifts to celebration. This Sonoma American Sparkler (still trying to make this a thing — @me) is alive and tart, like fresh sliced apples with a slightly creamy mouthfeel. The bubbles are persistent, but not overwhelming. This wine will match the fat and lift that salty crunch.
VinePair Rating: 87