A Quick Lesson on the Gender of Drinks (or “What Not to Order in a Lumberjack Bar”)

June 14, 2011

Before I was aware that some drinks have gender, I walked into a bar on the Iron Range in northern Minnesota, a bar filled with lumberjacks and steel workers, and ordered a pink squirrel. I know, it should have been obvious but I grew up in a home without booze and was new to drinking so I ordered the only drink I was familiar with–the one my friend’s mom drank. For anyone who tells you that it’s never too late to change your image, I can tell you that in some cases, it is. In this case there was no recovery and in spite of quickly recognizing my error and adding “and make it in a dirty glass!” my masculinity could not be saved that day.

Now anyone who reads this column knows that I don’t really believe that a drink defines you. I repeatedly preach that you should drink what you want. But there is a perception out there in the general public that begs the question, what determines whether a drink is male or female?  To help you sort it out, here are a few basic guidelines.

If a drink: can’t keep the TV on one channel for more than three seconds, won’t buy new underwear until the old ones look like a tattered flag from the civil war, cleans it’s ears with the car keys, or has at least one picture of itself holding a fish—it’s a male drink. If a drink: believes the cat is inconsolable because it doesn’t like its collar, keeps you waiting for everything, owns a miniature tool kit containing nothing more than three tools that are almost broken, or requires four times the closet space of other drinks—it’s a female drink. Remember this when you’re ordering in a Lumberjack bar.

This week’s recommendation definitely leans toward the male gender.

Rosenblum 2008, Richard Sauret Reserve Zinfandel ($27.99): A bit pricy? Yes, but it really delivers. This wine is big and masculine and powerful but at the same time is so surprisingly refined it reminds me of a lumberjack you meet at a party who suddenly begins speaking eloquently about impressionist art. It carries those macho flavors of smoke, tobacco, dark fruit, and leather and then presents them in a way that makes them seem almost feminine. Rosenblum is also the perfect match for barbequed ribs while watching the baseball game—just don’t hand it the remote.

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).

Viking Post-Season Wine Pairings

January 12, 2010

I’m going to assume that Adrian Peterson addresses his fumbling problem and the Vikings win the Super Bowl. This will give me the opportunity to spend my Sunday afternoons in January sitting on my couch watching The Purple win three post-season games (assuming the by week) while I munch on my favorite game-time cuisine. I realize that tradition calls for beer during the playoffs but a few years ago I began to offer wine as an alternative. One by one, just like Detroit fans that started the season cheering for the Lions, my friends began to make the change to something new. In case anyone is looking for a change or simply wants to offer an alternative, I have compiled a short list of great wines to pair with classic football fare. And won’t it be fun when your buddy asks you for a drink, to reply “Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Syrah, or Chardonnay?”

Buttered Popcorn: Meridian 2008, Chardonnay ($9.99). This is a perfect pairing. The wine even smells like buttered popcorn. The fermentation style used to produce many California Chardonnays creates a creamy, buttery taste. Combine that with the creamy vanilla flavor that the oak barrel adds to the wine and you have two items that each make the other taste better.

Sausage Pizza: Seven Deadly Zins 2006, Zinfandel ($16.99). The spicy finish makes this wine taste as if it came out of the same pan as the tomato sauce. This Zinfandel is big and bold enough to stand up to fatty sausage without getting overwhelmed. Bold, spicy, hot flavors are perfectly cut out for bold spicy wines.

Peperoni Pizza: Innocento Tramonti 2004, Sangiovese ($13.99): Sangiovese, the grape used to make Chianti, is a natural for all things Italian. The acidity of the wine fits seamlessly with tomato sauce. This wine also displays a faint smokiness that pairs perfectly with an oven baked pizza crust. The flavors of cherries and red apples are a bonus. Like the Vikings playing well for four full quarters, this wine is complete from the first aromas all the way through to the long lasting finish.

Slim Jims and Beef Jerky: McManis 2007, Syrah ($12.99): The pepperiness of a Syrah, or Shiraz if from Australia, goes hand in hand with spicy meats. There is also a gamey element to this wine which pairs well with beef. These two are like meat and gravy.

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