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Pop a cork or two with July 4th fireworks

Pop a cork or two with July 4th fireworks

I admit most wine writers aren’t contemplating the merits of which wine to serve with hot dogs, fried chicken and apple pies. But we’re in Arkansas and our Independence Day menus are likely to reflect our Southern cooking roots. And as with most aspects of this holiday celebration, I think the wines should be as American as the foods. 


Few aromas signify the Fourth of July like sizzling burgers, hot dogs and sausage links on the grill. Because these foods are generally rich in fat, red wines pair well. And, because most are generally paired with everything from onions and sauerkraut to mustard and ketchup, it’s best to keep the wine simple. I have always found medium-bodied juicy California Cabernet Sauvignon a dependable match as well as Syrah blends that bring a hint of pepper.


  • 2015 Bell Wine Cellars Red Blend, California (about $16 retail)


  • 2014 Robert Mondavi Maestro, California (about $55 retail)



No matter if you’re serving chicken, catfish or shrimp if it’s fried, I suggest opening a bottle of bubbly. It’ll just add to the celebratory feel of the day. The magic of this pairing is balancing the high acidity and slight sweetness of the bubbly with the saltiness in the food. But perhaps best of all is the value as, unlike most Champagne, American bubbly won’t break the bank.


  • NV Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut Sparkling, Washington (about $13 retail)


  • NV Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut, California (about $24 retail)



Most of you will agree, it just doesn’t get more American than apple pie. My sister’s perfect apple pie is essential for our family celebrations. I enjoy late-harvest Rieslings with sweet desserts, but apple pie’s acidity makes almost any Riesling a match.


  • 2015 Hogue Cellars Riesling, Oregon (about $10 retail)


  • 2015 Beringer Nightingale, California (about $40 retail)

Like liberty, wine in U.S. a struggle

With Independence Day just around the corner, it seems the perfect time to reflect on America’s journey to becoming a wine producing country. In the 16th century, the first settlers found an abundance of native vines growing on the East Coast. The first challenge for winemakers in Virginia and the Carolina colonies was not finding an indigenous grape that would thrive, but finding one that could satisfy European palates.

In 1619, the first European vines were imported to Virginia and planted in North American soils. The plantings expanded along much of the East Coast but were mostly unsuccessful: The strange climate, diseases and pests took harsh tolls.

The plantings of these vines continued to fail year after year until hybrid vines were developed. The “vignoble” of Cincinnati, the “muscadine” of the South and the “concord” were extensively planted to produce table grapes, jelly and wine.

Around 1779, Franciscan missionaries realized the terroir of California could support European vines. If you fast forward 200 years through vine disease, Prohibition, the World Wars and instability of the market, it brings us today to a country ranked as the fourth largest producer of wine in the world behind Italy, France and Spain.

Today wine is produced in nearly every state, with California leading the pack, making July Fourth an ideal time to enjoy and celebrate the wines of America.


  • 2010 Cellar No. 8 Pinot Noir, California (about $12 retail)
  • 2010 Cline Cellars Cashmere, California (about $15 retail)
  • 2010 Beringer Founders Estate Shiraz, California (about $12 retail)


  • 2009 Bell Big Guy Red, California (about $26 retail)
  • 2009 Gloria Ferrer Carneros Chardonnay, California (about $32 retail)
  • 2009 Honig Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $40 retail)