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How to Pair American Comfort Foods with Wine



Jazz up your weeknight dinners with these great pairings, from some popular sommeliers.

Every family has its favourite go-to dinners for busy weeknights. And whether its spaghetti and meatballs or a composed salad, every one of them can be a transcendent experience when paired with a wine that will make a crazy day feel like a distant memory. We asked prominent wine professionals how they would transform a basic American dinner into a world-class meal.


  • Grilled or Broiled Salmon


Gaia 2013 Wild Ferment Assyrtiko (Santorini)

Pro: Daniel Beedle, wine director, Juni, New York City

“My go-to wine for salmon would be Gaia Assyrtiko from the Aegean island of Santorini. [Its] Wild Ferment bottling spends 12 hours of contact with the grape skins, allowing for added richness and texture. Assyrtiko, which is naturally high in acidity, brings along with it fresh saline and citrus notes as well as a creamy brioche flavour from the use of yeasts indigenous to the island. The acidity and body of the wine balances with the buttery character of the salmon, allowing for the herbs and seasoning to really pop and stand out.”


  • Pasta Primavera


The Crossings 2014 Sauvignon Blanc (Awatere Valley)

Pro: Jessica Altieri, CEO, Wine Channel TV Network, Chicago

“If you’re looking for a weeknight wine adventure, I suggest opening The Crossings Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand. The sunny citrus and passion fruit aromas, complemented by a bright mineral finish, makes this Sauvignon Blanc a perfect pairing for pasta primavera made with fresh seasonal veggies. Fresh hints of lemon in the sauce pair up wonderfully with the citrus notes of this wine and will have you dreaming of the fast-flowing Awatere River and the cool water of Clifford Bay in Marlborough.”


  • Fish & Chips


Domaine Chandon NV Étoile Rosé (Sonoma-Napa)

Pro: Mariya Kovacheva, wine director, Café Boulud, Palm Beach, Florida

“One of my personal favorites with fried fish is Domaine Chandon’s Étoile Rosé. This American bubbly is made exactly the same way as any wine from Champagne, using Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The wine possesses terrific acidity to cut through the richness of fried fish. At the same time, it reveals great length and texture to stand up to the body of seafood with breading. Domaine Chandon’s Étoile Rosé has fresh aromas of ripe red plum, raspberry and nutmeg that build the profile of an intense wine—a perfect match for one of my favourite dishes.”


  • Shrimp Scampi


Giampaolo Venica 2013 Pinot Grigio (Collio)

Pro: Bobby Stuckey, MS, beverage director/partner, Frasca, Boulder, Colorado

“Traditional American shrimp scampi includes a delicious amount of garlic and butter. A great pairing for this dish would be from my good friend, Giampaolo Venica. His 2013 Pinot Grigio is full of crisp minerality, but still has enough body to tackle the assertiveness of the garlic in the dish. It has great acidity to it, a wine that always reminds me how great Pinot Grigio can be. Depending on [which] recipe you follow, I’d recommend using the wine in the dish preparation as well.”


  • Cobb Salad


Poseidon Vineyard 2013 Estate Chardonnay (Los Carneros)

Pro: Josiah Baldivino and Stevie Stacionis, proprietors, Bay Grape, Oakland, California

“We like the idea of pairing something American with a Cobb salad, since it is a classic, all-American dish. There are a lot of flavours and textures going on in this salad, so we want something with enough weight and intensity to match up with it. We really like Molnar Family’s Poseidon Vineyard Chardonnay from Carneros. It’s a California Chardonnay that sees a bit of oak but is from a slightly cool climate, so the great acidity stands up to the vinaigrette. The creaminess of the Chardonnay stands up to the chicken and avocado, while the acidity slices through the bacon and blue cheese.”


  • Chicken Parmesan


Terredora 2011 Loggia Della Serra (Greco di Tufo)

Pro: Ted Xenohristos, co-founder, Cava Grill, Washington, DC

“With chicken parmesan, I love drinking a 2011 Terredora Loggia Della Serra Greco di Tufo because it goes great with the breaded chicken, but can still handle the cheese and red sauce. Grown in the Campania wine region in southern Italy, it is a full-bodied white with excellent acidity. It is Greco, a variety that is believed to have been introduced to Campania by the Pelasgians, an ancient people from Thessaly in Greece.”


  • Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad


Acústic Celler 2011 Acústic Blanc (Montsant)

Pro: Peter Vestinos, beverage director, The Betty, Chicago

“Caesar salad hits on straightforward profiles of creamy, acidic, crunchy and salty, but often there is not much depth of flavour, so this calls for a wine with a bit more going on. My choice is Acústic Celler’s Blanc, a blend of Grenache Blanc and Macabeo from Spain, to step in and pair with the classic Caesar. The slightly full-bodied wine will hold up to the creamy dressing, the honeyed notes will pair with the salty quality of the salad and the wine has enough acid to keep the palate fresh and clean through each bite.”


Pork Chops & Applesauce


Trimbach 2009 Cuvée Frédéric Emile Riesling (Alsace)

Pro: Michaël Peltier, head sommelier, Hunky Dory and Bernardine’s, Houston

“When I prepare pork chops with applesauce, I pair it with a Riesling from Alsace, France: Trimbach’s Cuvée Frédéric Emile. This dry and powerful Riesling is underlined by fruity, floral and mineral notes and is coupled with a firm, ripe acidity that complements the sweetness of the applesauce. The dryness of the wine breaks through the rich qualities of this tasty meal.”


  • Salade Niçoise


Château de la Chaize 2011 Vieilles Vignes (Brouilly)

Pro: Andy Myers, MS, wine director, José Andrés ThinkFoodGroup, Washington, DC

“With Salade Niçoise, I love the Château de la Chaize Vieilles Vignes from the Beaujolais Cru of Brouilly, made entirely of Gamay. The high-toned, dried wild-berry fruit is a zingy complement to the tuna. The bright and lifting acidity adores the vinegar in the dressing, and the quintessentially rustic, black-rock minerality found in the Brouilly Cru plays nicely with the dark notes of the olives. If all that isn’t enough, I love that the moderate (and I might add well-balanced) alcohol keeps both wine and salad feeling refreshing and lovely.”


  • Roasted Chicken


Domaine Philippe Alliet 2013 Chinon

Pro: Yannick Benjamin, head sommelier, University Club, New York City

“One of my favorite dishes growing up with a French mother was her legendary but simple roasted chicken. One of my favorite pairings is Cabernet Franc, specifically from Chinon in the Loire Valley. Domaine Philippe Alliet Chinon 2013 is such a gracious pairing for roast chicken. It has a delicate aroma of freshly picked red fruit and dried tobacco. Secondary flavours of violets and rosemary jump out of the glass, and if you plan on adding some rosemary and herbs to your roast chicken, it will only make this pairing that much better.”


  • Gringo Tacos


Melville 2013 Block M Pinot Noir (Sta. Rita Hills)

Pro: Paul Ozbirn, beverage director, Parkside Projects, Austin, Texas

“Whenever we’d do ‘Taco Tuesday’ growing up in Huntsville, Alabama, it was a pretty straightforward affair: ground beef, taco seasoning, hard corn tortillas right out of the box, diced tomato and onion, some shredded lettuce and cheddar, and chunky salsa. These days, I’d pair this with a 2013 Melville Block M Pinot Noir from the Sta. Rita Hills AVA of Santa Barbara County. Cherry-cola notes are nostalgic to the iced soda of childhood. Mixed red and dark fruit flavours combine with the cumin and cayenne of the taco seasoning, creating a balance on the palate between sweet and spicy.”


  • Macaroni & Cheese


Castello Banfi 2012 Rosso di Montalcino

Pro: Michael McGeath, proprietor, Brooklyn Girl Eatery, San Diego

“When I make macaroni & cheese, it is more of the Italian variety. Using several cheeses such as provolone, Gorgonzola, fontina and a little parmigiana ads depth of flavour as opposed to the classic American with just cheddar cheese. The ideal match with this hearty dish is one of my favorite red wines from Tuscany, Castello Banfi’s Rosso di Montalcino. It has a full-on flavour of blackberries and rich, full mouth feel, and the strong acidity balances out the fattiness of the cheese. This is my idea of a perfect combo for a perfect dinner at home.”


  • Burgers


Château du Trignon 2012 Côtes du Rhône

Pro: Josh Jenkins, beverage manager, The Dandelion Pub, Philadelphia

For a burger, a balanced, medium-bodied red that is slightly smoky and with a moderately tannic structure would be my recommended pairing. We make our burger with smoked bacon, pickles and cheese, and we pour a 2012 Côtes du Rhône from Château du Trignon, which is a medium-bodied Rhône made fromGrenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. You get some smoke from the Syrah, which pairs great with the smoked bacon, and some spice from the Mourvèdre that goes well with the peppercorns in the brined pickles. Plus, Grenache is a low-tannic grape variety that helps keep it balanced.”


  • Spaghetti & Meatballs


Mazzei 2009 Philip (Toscana)

Pro: Christopher Paris Zarcadoolas, head sommelier, Scarpetta, Fontainebleau, Miami Beach, Florida

“I have to consider the apparent simplicity and underlying complexity of spaghetti & meatballs. Mazzei’s Philip Cabernet Sauvignon is a wine that represents this delightful duality in both profile and spirit. The dark fruit and dried flowers of the wine mingle gently with the sugar, green notes and acidity of the tomatoes. Sage and balsamic herbs couple seamlessly with the spices of the dish. Velvety tannins embrace the force of the veal and beef, as the tart cherry impression of the finish brings the nutty and creamy aspects of Pecorino into balance.”


  • Meatloaf


López de Heredia 2003 Viña Bosconia Reserva (Rioja)

Pro: Harley Carbery, director of wine, Delano Las Vegas and Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas

“Meatloaf is a great comfort food. For me, it brings back memories of cold winter nights and nice heart-warming meals at my grandparents’ home. One of the best pairings I have had recently was with a nice Rioja, 2003 R. López de Heredia Viña Bosconia Reserva, made with 80% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacha, 3%Graciano and 2% Mazuelo. This wine is medium bodied, with a warming character, just like the meatloaf. The spicy, herbaceous, almost meaty qualities in the wine make the pairing with the meatloaf almost a perfect match. Similar aromas and flavours in the dish and the wine take them both to another level.”



By Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen, WineMag