Today I’m going to talk about drinking wine all day. Not like that time the economy collapsed and I was laid off from my job about an hour after showing up one Monday morning. That was a different kind of drinking wine all day. That entailed making a selection from the gas station and drinking out of a coffee mug. I’m pretty sure a bathrobe was involved. I don’t recommend all-day wine drinking as a palliative for life’s hardships—you wake up the next day with a half-spilled bag of potato chips in your bed, a relentless hangover, and still no job.
And all of that is years behind me now!
By ‘drinking wine all day,’ I mean there are different wines that work well with the various meals and events of the day. If you’ve already gotten out your coffee mug and bathrobe, put them away. This is an invitation to put on strappy sandals and a cute apron. Invite friends over or pack a picnic basket. This is classy all-day wine drinking.
Let’s start with breakfast. If your typical breakfast is at 6:00am and is a kale smoothie before a three-mile run, let’s call “breakfast” brunch. At this early hour, you don’t want anything that’s too high in alcohol content or too heavy. The go-to wine before noon is typically bubbly—a sparkling wine, Champagne, or Prosecco. These can be served alone, or Champagne can be mixed with orange juice to create a staple of wedding and baby showers—the Mimosa. Typically, Mimosas are served in a Champagne flute to the tune of 2 ounces of orange juice to 4 ounces of Champagne. This can be made extra swanky by adding a splash of Grenadine or orange liquor, but the classic Mimosa is lovely on its own. I’m not a stickler for conventions, but when you serve a bubbly wine, it really should be in a flute, not a glass. You can get plastic ones at a party store for next to nothing if you’re planning a breakfast wine event (with people who aren’t judgy).
Okay, onto lunch. Having a salad for lunch is the right thing to do, we all know this. An important consideration when pairing a wine with a salad is the acidity of the dressing. With a highly acidic dressing, you want an acidic wine. That sounds like acid overload, but it prevents the salad from overwhelming the wine or vice versa. So if your salad dressing is heavy on vinegar or lemon juice, a Riesling is a good choice. Throw some chicken on your salad and go with a Sauvignon blanc. Both of these wine varieties are often bottled with screw caps rather than corks, so that’s an additional bonus if you’re having a midday picnic or just don’t like bothering with a corkscrew before sunset.
Next up is cocktail hour. I had a grandmother who took cocktail hour seriously. She would put out little bowls of nuts or pretzels and have my dad make her a proper Manhattan on the rocks. I was only a kid at the time, so I would have ginger ale. If she took me to her country club for cocktail hour, I got to have a Shirley Temple. My point is that in her house, we observed cocktail hour. She passed away a few years ago and I took her highball glasses that I rarely use but are overflowing with good memories. So, for cocktail hour, let’s try a drink called a Kalimotxo (pronounced kali-motcho). This drink comes from the Basque region, which comprises parts of North Central Spain and South West France. This drink is exotic and sexy enough to be the centerpiece of any cocktail hour, but easy enough to make with what I consider to be beverage staples.
3 ounces of dry red wine
3 ounces of cola
juice of half a lemon
lemon slice to garnish (cocktail hour is the time to garnish)
Combine wine, cola, and lemon juice in a chilled cocktail glass filled with ice. Garnish with lemon slice to serve. Awesome! Little bowls of nuts, sesame sticks, wasabi peas…that is a cocktail hour to make my grandma proud.
Now we have arrived at dinner. There are so many possibilities here, so the wine pairings are nearly endless. My favorite wine happens to be Pinot Noir. I’ll drink it with anything. But I did some research on what foods are recommended pairings with Pinot Noir by experts in the wine field. The experts say: Patés, terrines, classic French preparations of rabbit or kidneys, roast goose, guineafowl, or pigeon. Okay. Whoa. Guineafowl sounds like something served in Beowulf (paired with meade), and pigeon? Really? I don’t dabble in rabbit or kidneys. The thought of cooking a goose is funny to me because people exacting revenge say, “Your goose is cooked!” It seems that I have been pairing my Pinot Noir all wrong. But not really—the rule is to drink what you like, and experts also say that Pinot Noir is a fine accompaniment to steak, pork, and even salmon. Pinot Noir is described as having toasty flavors of cherry, chocolate, and spices. According to the Wine Folly website, “Pinot Noir is the most highly prized wine in the world. But why? It’s not as rich or big as its noble cousins, in fact it’s quite the opposite. Pinot Noir wines are pale in color, translucent and their flavors are very subtle. The grape itself is weak, suffering from a variety of diseases and its genetics make it highly susceptible to mutation.” That’s not a glowing endorsement. The words “disease” and “mutation” don’t harken thoughts of romantic candlelit dinners. But the wine is somehow beautiful. So my recommendation for dinner is some kind of bird that you capture from the 16th century or a delicious grilled pork tenderloin with roasted asparagus. The Pinot Noir will be a perfect pairing.
Dessert? This is so simple. Ice Wine, or Eiswein. This is a dessert wine made from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine. U.S. law, like German law, specifies that the grapes must be naturally frozen, not frozen postharvest. True Ice Wine is like a fixed moment in time—a moment of natural, organic sweetness. I suggest you pour a bit of it on top of a scoop of high-quality vanilla ice cream and end your evening with a sigh of sweet satisfaction. For this, you’re allowed to get out your coffee mug and your bathrobe.