Fear and Loathing in the Liquor Store

February 9, 2010

“Can you pick up a bottle of wine? I’m making chicken.”

Hearing those words is all it takes for the facial tics to begin. Pick the right one and I’m the hero. Pick the wrong one and it’s like I’m the guy wearing white socks with the tuxedo. Too much pressure! I step into my local liquor store, gazing at the labyrinth of wine racks, feeling the same dread as when I look at the mountain of snow that the plow makes at the bottom of the driveway. I take a few more steps past the Argentinean wines and my brain begins to make that noise the car makes when you try to start it after it’s already turned on. My heart beats faster. I walk further, past the Malbec and I see that scary clown from Stephen King’s movie It standing by the Chianti. Through brown and crooked teeth he spits out the phrase, “Red with beef! White with fish and chicken!” Does that old rule still apply? I begin to lose my nerve. With sweat pouring down my face I panic. I bolt past the Merlot, past the Chardonnay, and past the clown. In a few short seconds I’m safe once again in the beer section. Looks like it’s beer with chicken again tonight.

It shouldn’t be this hard. Choosing a wine for dinner shouldn’t feel like a meeting with the IRS guy. Below is a quick guide that will get you through many common dinners.

Steak/Cabernet Sauvignon: Many times Cabernet goes with food like cats go with vacuum cleaners but steak and Cabernet is a classic. Try Sebastiani 2008, Cabernet Sauvignon ($17.99).

Salmon/Pinot Noir: Yes, a red with fish. Pinot goes with most anything so if you’re on the spot in a restaurant in front of the in-laws, Pinot is a safe bet. Try Castle Rock 2008, Pinot Noir ($10.99).

Italian food/Chianti or Zinfandel: A good rule of thumb is to drink wine from the same region that the food comes from. Chianti works with most tomato sauces. Zinfandel is spicy enough to pair perfectly with spicy sausage. Try DaVinci 2007, Chianti ($13.99) or McManis 2007, Zinfandel ($12.99).

Pork/Chardonnay: Pork just works with Chardonnay. In addition, so many creamy sauces and rich herbs used with pork do, too. It’s like the guy dating the cute girl. If it doesn’t work with her, there’s always her hot sister. Try Chateau St. Jean 2008, Chardonnay ($13.99).

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