Choosing Drinks for Independence Day

The Wine Guys

In June 2008, with no plan and no particular job prospects like a lot of recent graduates that year, I came to the United States planning to spend a long summer with my American girlfriend and then return to England. By September we had adopted a cat, found an apartment, were planning our wedding, and America was my new home.

As an outsider, and particularly a Brit, I did not immediately take to the 4th of July. For the sake of irritating my soon-to-be wife, I spent that first Independence Day referring to it as “good riddance day.” In the ensuing four years, through road trips dictated by national parks, battle sites and roadfood guides, I have begun to appreciate the awe-inspiring geography, regional distinctions, and enthralling history of the United States. So this year, as I begin my own citizenship application process, I will be delighted to toast the ideals of the Revolution and my new home. I will even refer to it as Independence Day, as long as I can enjoy some great food and celebratory drinks with friends.

For many people, the 4th of July is synonymous with barbeque. But that does not mean that meat over charcoal is the only aroma associated with the day. The sulfur of fireworks and the chlorine of late afternoon dips in the pool can overwhelm anyone’s olfactory capabilities. Choosing a wine or a drink that can stand up to such powerful scents, particularly on a hot DC summer afternoon, can pose a considerable challenge. It’s always tempting to pick an old stand-by, a favorite beer, wine or large batch of margaritas. However, it’s also a holiday, and an opportunity to try something different to really celebrate with friends and family. If you are looking for some new ideas for your picnic or backyard feast, there are plenty of patriotic, historically appropriate, and delicious options to choose from.  

If you’re choosing a beer, there is a bewildering selection of incredibly good quality micro brews out there. For barbeque fare I would go for something flavorful but not too high in alcohol. Michigan-based Founders Brewing Company (coincidentally a great name for a ‘founding fathers’ theme) makes a stunning dry hopped Pale Ale and Red Rye. If you’re interested in something local, why not pick up one of DC Brau’s incredibly popular offerings?

For American wines that work well with barbeque, big California Zinfandels such as Dry Creek’s 2009 Heritage Clone or, for a bit more, C.G. di Arie’s 2006 Southern Exposure from Amador county in the Sierra Foothills would be my first two choices. However, lighter Syrahs or even Pinots can work well, too. Yamhill Valley Vineyards from Oregon is an old favorite. Their 2008 Estate offers tons of black cherry and raspberry fruit, showing good body and texture on the palate, and a long finish with depth and minerality.

Sparkling wines can mix up extra festive cocktails or be enjoyed on their own. Gruet from New Mexico is leading the pack with their relatively inexpensive, ($15) but quality, Brut non-vintage. With 24 months on tirage (resting after its second fermentation), it spends longer than most non-vintage Champagnes (which are required a minimum of 18 months), developing plenty of body and toasty aromas to complement lots of white flowers, apple and grapefruit. Plus it’s not so expensive that you can’t make Mimosas with it.

It seems slightly contradictory to consume French drinks on such an American day, but particularly in DC it seems worthwhile to raise a glass to the contributions of General Lafayette and Pierre L’Enfant to the young nation and capital city. And if that’s not reason enough, the founding fathers, particularly Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, were considerable fans of French wine. My favorite part of a recent visit to Monticello was the single bottle dumbwaiter Jefferson had installed in his dining room, and the cellar full of long-empty Bordeaux bottles. During their time in France both Franklin and Jefferson developed a particular attachment to what would later become first growth Bordeaux, including Lafite.  

For French wines that go with barbeque, I don’t think you can get better than Rhone Valley wines. Chateauneuf-du-Pape would be my first choice, expressing lots of spice, fruit, and gamey smokiness. However, if you are looking at spending a little less, now is a great time to stock up on some terrific bargains from the region. Pic & Chapoutier (a collaborative effort between one of the region’s top producers and Anne-Sophie Pic, the World’s first female chef to run a three Michelin star establishment) are doing a great line of wines. Their Crozes-Hermitage is a particularly terrific value at $20.

On a hot summer day, a crisp and zesty Sauvignon Blanc can feel as refreshing as blasting your face with an air conditioning vent. From the Loire valley (home of Sauvignon Blanc), Caillottes’s Sancerre ‘Les Genets’ and Saumon’s Touraine are two we recently received from France and which perfectly accompany grilled chicken and fish.

Again, for whiskey fans, the go to choice would be a good bourbon such as an Elmer T. Lee’s or Four Roses’s Single Barrel, but carrying on with the French theme why not celebrate the long weekend with Maison Rouge’s VSOP Cognac ($25) or Tariquet’s VSOP Armagnac ($40)?

 

Felix is Schneider's New Media Manager and wine student currently studying for the Wine & Spirits Education Trust Diploma, a prerequisite for the Institute of Master of Wine.

 

Choosing Drinks for Independence Day

By Felix Milner

In June 2008, with no plan and no particular job prospects like a lot of recent graduates that year, I came to the United States planning to spend a long summer with my American girlfriend and then return to England. By September we had adopted a cat, found an apartment, were planning our wedding, and America was my new home.

As an outsider, and particularly a Brit, I did not immediately take to the 4th of July. For the sake of irritating my soon-to-be wife, I spent that first Independence Day referring to it as “good riddance day.” In the ensuing four years, through road trips dictated by national parks, battle sites and roadfood guides, I have begun to appreciate the awe-inspiring geography, regional distinctions, and enthralling history of the United States. So this year, as I begin my own citizenship application process, I will be delighted to toast the ideals of the Revolution and my new home. I will even refer to it as Independence Day, as long as I can enjoy some great food and celebratory drinks with friends.

For many people, the 4th of July is synonymous with barbeque. But that does not mean that meat over charcoal is the only aroma associated with the day. The sulfur of fireworks and the chlorine of late afternoon dips in the pool can overwhelm anyone’s olfactory capabilities. Choosing a wine or a drink that can stand up to such powerful scents, particularly on a hot DC summer afternoon, can pose a considerable challenge. It’s always tempting to pick an old stand-by, a favorite beer, wine or large batch of margaritas. However, it’s also a holiday, and an opportunity to try something different to really celebrate with friends and family. If you are looking for some new ideas for your picnic or backyard feast, there are plenty of patriotic, historically appropriate, and delicious options to choose from.  

If you’re choosing a beer, there is a bewildering selection of incredibly good quality micro brews out there. For barbeque fare I would go for something flavorful but not too high in alcohol. Michigan-based Founders Brewing Company (coincidentally a great name for a ‘founding fathers’ theme) makes a stunning dry hopped Pale Ale and Red Rye. If you’re interested in something local, why not pick up one of DC Brau’s incredibly popular offerings?

For American wines that work well with barbeque, big California Zinfandels such as Dry Creek’s 2009 Heritage Clone or, for a bit more, C.G. di Arie’s 2006 Southern Exposure from Amador county in the Sierra Foothills would be my first two choices. However, lighter Syrahs or even Pinots can work well, too. Yamhill Valley Vineyards from Oregon is an old favorite. Their 2008 Estate offers tons of black cherry and raspberry fruit, showing good body and texture on the palate, and a long finish with depth and minerality.

Sparkling wines can mix up extra festive cocktails or be enjoyed on their own. Gruet from New Mexico is leading the pack with their relatively inexpensive, ($15) but quality, Brut non-vintage. With 24 months on tirage (resting after its second fermentation), it spends longer than most non-vintage Champagnes (which are required a minimum of 18 months), developing plenty of body and toasty aromas to complement lots of white flowers, apple and grapefruit. Plus it’s not so expensive that you can’t make Mimosas with it.

It seems slightly contradictory to consume French drinks on such an American day, but particularly in DC it seems worthwhile to raise a glass to the contributions of General Lafayette and Pierre L’Enfant to the young nation and capital city. And if that’s not reason enough, the founding fathers, particularly Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, were considerable fans of French wine. My favorite part of a recent visit to Monticello was the single bottle dumbwaiter Jefferson had installed in his dining room, and the cellar full of long-empty Bordeaux bottles. During their time in France both Franklin and Jefferson developed a particular attachment to what would later become first growth Bordeaux, including Lafite.  

For French wines that go with barbeque, I don’t think you can get better than Rhone Valley wines. Chateauneuf-du-Pape would be my first choice, expressing lots of spice, fruit, and gamey smokiness. However, if you are looking at spending a little less, now is a great time to stock up on some terrific bargains from the region. Pic & Chapoutier (a collaborative effort between one of the region’s top producers and Anne-Sophie Pic, the World’s first female chef to run a three Michelin star establishment) are doing a great line of wines. Their Crozes-Hermitage is a particularly terrific value at $20.

On a hot summer day, a crisp and zesty Sauvignon Blanc can feel as refreshing as blasting your face with an air conditioning vent. From the Loire valley (home of Sauvignon Blanc), Caillottes’s Sancerre ‘Les Genets’ and Saumon’s Touraine are two we recently received from France and which perfectly accompany grilled chicken and fish.

Again, for whiskey fans, the go to choice would be a good bourbon such as an Elmer T. Lee’s or Four Roses’s Single Barrel, but carrying on with the French theme why not celebrate the long weekend with Maison Rouge’s VSOP Cognac ($25) or Tariquet’s VSOP Armagnac ($40)?

Felix is Schneider's New Media Manager and wine student currently studying for the Wine & Spirits Education Trust Diploma, a prerequisite for the Institute of Master of Wine.


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