Jefferson, the principal author of The Declaration of Independence, also
had the distinction of being our country's first wine importer and our first
serious vintner. Jefferson's vision extended well into the next two centuries
and he foresaw America as an important wine producing country. It seems appropriate
that we remember the grand gentleman from Monticello as we celebrate the
beginning of the United States in our backyards by the grill, eating the
delights prepared by our resident family chef and sipping something that
is truly delicious. Jefferson loved to entertain at Monticello and took great
care to serve his guests the best food along with wines carefully selected
from his renowned cellar.
A few years back, I participated
in a national survey canvassing chefs and cookbook authors to determine if
there was any consensus that one type or style of food and cooking is quintessentially
American. To no one's surprise, barbeque won hands down. And the conclusion
was in no way confined to the South or Texas. The great chefs in legendary
Manhattan restaurants expressed the same opinion as their counterparts in
Miami, San Francisco and Seattle. The variable was the meat and style of
sauce, but the barbeque basics of charcoal, smoke and slow cooking was constant.
The challenge for everyone
who relishes the ceremony of the feast made possible from outdoor grilling
is selecting wines that are appropriate for each style of barbeque. That's
a question I pose to chefs and sommeliers often in the dead of winter and
once again, tempered by my own experience, I found some uniformity of opinion.
For red meats, principally beef and lamb, a Pinot Noir from Oregon works
magic (this is America's holiday and although I love the greats from other
countries and bear no prejudice whatever, we'll try with some exceptions
- to stay in our own vineyards for this sacred time of year). It's a soft
wine that doesn't fight the smokiness and spices. Chicken is far more versatile
for wine pairing and you can run the gamut of wines depending on the strength
of the sauce and the intensity of the smoked flavor. If the finished chicken
is a little on the lighter side, serve it with a first rate rose`, a wine
that is on the rebound and is rapidly becoming a favorite with hot weather
diners. It is fruity but generally not sweet and the chilled, beautiful liquid
can truly elevate the taste of grilled chicken.
Pork is huge on the summer
grill. A walk by the meat counter at Publix confirms this and if ribs, a
Boston butt roast or loin is on your menu for family or guests, choosing
the wine is going to be fun. In many ways the wine choices are similar to
pairing with chicken. The saucessweet, tangy or spicy/hotdictate
the appropriate wine. The easiest and safest choice is Beaujolais, and the
good news is that it's readily available, highly drinkable and easy on the
wallet. Try a Beaujolais-Villages or even better, one of the heralded Cru
Beaujolais, a Morgan, Julienas, Moulin-A-Vent or Saint-Amour. These should
be moderately chilled in the refrigerator and will be a big hit with everyone
at the dinner table.
Jefferson wouldn't mind at all if you deviated from domestic wines when necessary
to celebrate the beginning of the country he helped create. He imported vast
quantities of wines to Monticello from France, Germany and Italy to stock
his Virginia cellar, and generously supplied wines for the first four Presidents.
Jefferson believed in the American Dream and fostered hospitality as an American
Celebrate the American way
with barbeque, fine wine and good cheer. Together, they honor our tradition
of freedom, family, friends and community.