Terredora di Paolo Aglianico 2006

A southern Italian wine made by Campania's largest wine producer and vineyard owner.  Terredora takes pride in reintroducing the world to local ancient varietals, all of which were the best of the Roman Empire.  Aglianico is the best red varietal that the south of Italy has to offer.  Priced at $11.99 from Caffe Roma in San Francisco, this wine produced.  There was deep dark color, leading into a dark red fruit which was complimented by spice and toasted tones.  The wine was tight and benefitted from time outside the bottle (WG 88pts.).  Was great with our spinach and homemade meatball pizza from Pizzelle di North Beach, San Francisco.

Wine with Fast Food? Who Knew!

Good healthy eating keeps us vibrant and in shape.  But most people, including the Windy City Wine Guy, love to splurge every once in a while and delve into some fast food.  A good, cold beer always goes well in most instances, but wine can enhance and be affected by fast foods.  I recently read a great article about beer pairings and my brother-in-law sent me an email link on choosing the right wine with fast food.  Now its time for some of my personal favorite pairings..

  1. Pizza.  There are many styles and Chicago has some of the best.  For delivery try Phil's.  This pizza has thinner crust and go for the sausage.  I pair this with Falesco Vitiano ($8.99).  Dining out I love Salerno's on Grand.  A killer spinach ricotta pizza with tangy tomato sauce paired with Mastroberardino's Lacryma Christi Rosso from Campania, Italy- the birthplace of pizza!

  2. Cheeseburger.  Hands down best fast burger in town- Portillo's.  For me it's a double bacon from Ontario and Clark drive thru.  Cabernet Franc, ala Miles' burger and $2.5k/bottle bev choice '61Cheval Blanc in Sideways, and rich Merlot can cut through the grease and cheese and mingle with the flavor.  I choose Colombia Crest Grand Estate Merlot ($8.99).

  3. Breaded Fried Chicken.  Harold's Chicken Shack #62 on Wabash serves great chicken.  The biggest difference between them and the others is chicken is cooked to order in beef/vegetable oil mix for added flavor.  Paired with a yeasty traditional method sparkling wine like Domaine Chandon ($14.99) is fried bready heaven!  Get some okra and watch the hot sauce- those bubbles could flame you up!

  4. Fried Seafood.  Lawrence's Fisheries on Canal is open 24/7 offering anything from the best breaded shrimp to frog legs.  I'm going with a big white here- Yering Station Chardonnay ($11.99).  The slight oak will mingle with breading while the fruit and acidity accompanies cocktail sauce.  Get the breaded mushrooms while you're at it.

  5. Hot Dog and Fries.  It doesn't get much better than Hot Doug's.  Want more substance?  Come on Fridays and Saturadays when the fries are cooked in duck fat!  For the rich fat, go for a Pinot Noir- Buena Vista ($17.99) from Carneros.  The acidity and light tannins will mingle with the fat and goes well with sausage.  The fruitiness will accompany celery salt and mustard.  Bon apetit.

  6. Gyros.  Rodity's in Greektown is great and accessible, but I love Kings and Queens in Berwyn.  I enjoy Penfold's Koonunga Hill Shiraz ($7.99).  Shiraz is perfect for lamb plus the natural acidity will go well with the tomatoes and onions.  The rich tzatziki sauce will mingle with the oaky fruit- make sure to ask for extra on the side please.

  7. BBQ.  The range of sauces used for BBQ food is wide with descriptions of sweet, tangy, zingy, spicy, etc.  Watch the sauce for the pairing.  All the meats are smokey and rich so a full racey white (Cote du Rhone Blanc) or fruity red can go well.  I love The Patio Restaurant on Harlem.  A chicken/rib combo with the juicy and lightly spiced Gascon Malbec ($9.99) is perfect.  Also love Pilsners with BBQ(oops!).

  8. Mexican.  This cuisine can get spicy so you have to watch the pairing even before the hot sauce.  Arturo's Tacos has some of the best and is open 24/7.  I love the al pastor tacos and burritos add avocado is excellent.  They have two sauces: a mild green and spicy red.  For lighter spice pair it up with dry and fruity Bastianich Rosato ($13.99) and hot spice go for sweeter Milat Chenin Blanc ($18).  Sometimes Taco Bell comes into play and I love my Nacho Bellgrande.  Same wines apply- Milat with Fire sauce!

  9. Thai, Chinese, and Indian take-out.  A lot of options in Chicago and I love Ma & I on Michigan Ave.  Spicy Pad Thai dishes paired with Gustave Lorentz Gewurztraminer ($11.49) and it's sweet fruit and light spice are perfect.  This wine pairs well with sweet n sour, curry, and hot dishes from Eastern Asia.  Try Gustave's Pinot Gris and Riesling with the cuisines as well.

  10. Italian Sandwiches.  There are two kind- hot and cold.  Hot sandwiches include beef, sausage, breaded steak and chicken, egg and pepper, and meatball.  Cold sandwiches are deli meat selections.  They can have hot and sweet peppers, cheese, oil, and/or tomato sauce on them.  Hot sandwiches are best at Ricobene's(Breaded Steak), Freddie's(Chicken Parm and Combo), Portillo's(Big Beef), and Panozzo's(Meatball).  Pair any and all of these up with Sangiovese: Caparzo Rosso di Montalcino ($17.99).  Deli sandwiches are best at Fontano's- try the Big "I", add oil, no mayo.  Pairs great with Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina ($14.79).

 What's your favorite fast food spots and pairings?  Let the Windy City Wine Guy know!

(Image courtesy of Flickr)

Tips to Wine/Food Pairings

There are many easy tips to help you be a winner every time you pair food with wine.  I have broken these on many an occasion and the results were good, but following a simple rules will have a great effect on any dining experience.

  1. Watch the Spice!  Eating foods that are spiced, seasoned, hot, or salty need fruity wines.  Tannins, oak, and high alcohol content will kick up the heat and ruin the experience.  For whites go Alsatian: try Rhine Reisling, Gewurztraminer, or Pinot Gris.  For reds go light: Gamay or Pinot Noir.  You also can go with dry rose.

  2. Rich and Fat.  Rich, fat dishes should go with heavy, full wines.  Try Viognier, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, or Syrah.

  3. Acidity, Acidity.  Foods and sauced higher in acid: tomato, citrus, vinegars, and canned or bottled vegetables can be cut and pair well with higher acid wines.  Try Sauvignon Blanc, dry Reisling, or Pinot Grigio for whites and Pinot Noir or northern Italian red varietals like Barbera and Dolcetto.

  4. Sauced.  In most cases, it is best to pair the wine with the sauce.  Lighter sauces with lighter wines, ie. lemon caper sauce with Pinot Grigio.  Heavy sauces with fuller wines, ie. bordelaise sauce with Cabernet Sauvignon.  If there is a wine used to make the sauce, pair that same wine with the meal.  Please use quality wines for cooking and a different, higher quality wine for the meal people!

  5. Animal Protein.  Pair the proteins with the body of the wine.  Lighter meats with light to medium bodied wines, ie. salmon with Pinot Noir, roasted chicken breast with Gruner Veltliner.  Heavier meats with medium to full wines, ie. pork loin with Chardonnay, sirloin with Malbec.

  6. Regional Approach.  If you are cooking a regional recipe, try a regional wine.  Tuscan cuisine with Chianti, grilled Australian lamb with Shiraz, etc.  Older cuisines were created to go with traditional styles of wine and varietals.

  7. Sweets.  The sweetness of a dish should be less than that of the wine.  Sweet BBQ sauces with Zinfandel, light carmelized sauces with Madeira, cherry sauce with Ruby Port are a few examples.

  8. Don't Over-Do It!  Balance is key.  Do not let the meal overpower the wine or vice versa.

  9. Light to Full.  When having multiple courses, progress from lighter to heavier wines.  Open a bottle of Sylvaner for your spinach salad with goat cheese then try some Barbaresco with the veal chop.

  10. Know What You Like.  Make sure you pick out wines you enjoy, not wines that are picked by magazines, scores, or marketing.  You are sure to enjoy any meal if your favorite wines are involved!

This can be fun.  Try these combos reply with any new ones or questions!

(Top Image Courtesy of Flickr) 

Whole Foods offers Whole Wines

While doing some weekly shopping with my wife at Whole Foods in the south loop I could not resist checking the wine section (like I always do).  I noticed that it had grown to an enormous size since they first opened.  Not only was the section quite large, but there was wine everywhere- in the aisles, by the vegetables, the meats, etc.  Since I perceive Whole Foods not only to offer a superior product than other supermarkets, but also the finer things in life, it makes me happy to see good wines marketed with great foods.

There are also a few things which make the experience even better while shopping: 

  1. Purchase a Vin-O-Pass.  You can load money onto the card then try sample some wines.  The pours (30ml) come out of a dispenser straight from the bottle into a provided glass.  They range in price from $.50-4.00 and there are over ten wines available.  You can put on your own tasting!

  2. Not only is the inventory huge but some of the selections are from organic or sustainable practicing producers and around $10.  Some of my picks are Boomtown Chardonnay ($10.97) and Syrah ($12.97) both from Dusted Valley Vintners, Washington state.  Also for $10.99 each- Quinta Dos Grilos Portuguese red, El Quintanal Ribera del Duero, Gascon Malbec, and a great white for those who have been to San Gimignano in Tuscany, Teruzzi E Puthod Vernaccia.  Plus if you buy 6 or more bottles you get 10% off- Enjoy!

  3. There is a great beer selection offering organic and local product like Two Brothers, Three Floyds, and Lamar Street organic from Goose Island.

  4. It is located right next to the cheese and olives- great for pairing with help from their expert staff.