Bring on the mustard, the pickles, the ketchup and all the fixins’ because today is National Hot Dog Day!
From bratwurst to polish sausage, to good ole fashioned wieners, Americans have enjoyed the almighty dog since 1871 when a German baker by the name of Charles Feltman, opened up the first Coney Island hot dog stand selling 3,684 sausages, served in a milk roll, his first year of business.
Certainly, beer has always been the favorite when it comes to pairing a libation to this delicious juicy treat, but in all reality wine just might be the better choice depending on the style of wiener you’re reaching for. So today, as a way to pay homage to one of the greatest foods invented, I thought I’d toss out a good helping of grape alternatives to make your day of dogs that much better.
1. Gamay! Ahhh, right! One of best well known, not so well known grapes on the planet. Most Americans associate the Gamay grape (if they understand that Gamay is the grape in this region) with the region of Beaujolais. Unfortunately, Beaujolais Nouveau, a completely different animal all together that produces the not-so-serious ‘drink now’ red wine released every November is the one category that most associate with this gorgeous southern Burgundian region. When in fact, we can thank Gamay for producing some of the most ethereal delicious light bodied reds in France. The gorgeous little region of Beaujolais and its upper tiered status (crus) produce some of my favorite reds in the world. (Two of my favorite Crus from the region are: Fleurie and Morgon, better known for their femininity and structure.) But for now, let’s focus on the overall surrounding region of Beaujolais that encompasses these little winemaking villages. Try this one on for size: Kermit Lynch’s 2015 Beaujolais – a wine that exudes dark, rich blackberry fruit popped by notes of black pepper and spice making this beaut the perfect pairing to bratwurst and good ole fashioned wieners hot off the grill!
2. Zinfandel. Yes, the grape we adore oh so much in the northern parts of California. Hailing mainly from the Sonoma Valley, Zinfandel has the gorgeous ability to pair to a variety of smoked or grilled dogs due to its weight and boozy structured. Although it grows beautifully in the north, I’m fan of its Paso Robles roots as well. Try this one from the region: Force of Nature Zinfandel from Rob Murray Vineyards. Dark and dreamy, and equipped with a cool label, too (great for gift giving)!
3. Syrah. My gosh, how can we forget the king of pork! Syrah, the grape I call the ‘piggy grape’. All things pork? Sign up Syrah for the win! From grilled to sauced, Syrah is the answer to pork because of the intense black pepper, pork belly aromas the grape can display. I love the play off of these notes as you can sip this juicy little gem from its birthplace of Rhone, France all the way into California, Washington, Australia, South Africa and beyond. Check out the South African section for a variety with a smokier flare!
4. Malbec. Of course we can’t forget one of the world’s most lovable grapes, Malbec, now can we? While most believe that Malbec is South America’s grape, it did in fact grow up southern France. From Bordeaux to Cahors, these stunning picturesque regions produce some of the most structured Malbecs you’re most likely to lay your lips on. Today on National Hot Dog Day, give Cahors a chance and break from the Argentine section for just a second to discover the real grit behind this blue fruited, spiced grape.
5. Merlot. Ladies and Gents, may I introduce the Queen! Lovely, lovely Merlot. Still clawing her way back to the top (at least in the U.S.), after Pinot Noir and the movie ‘Sideways’ threw her to the wayside. Although still one of the most revered grapes in Bordeaux, Merlot for me is the answer to a lot of delicious pork dishes. Whether it be grilled, smoked or sauced, I love the soft feminine touch of violet, soft dried rose petal and spice this can grape display while it’s often surrounded by lush blackberry, raspberry jam jar notes. A grape well worth reacquainting yourself with, if it’s not in your wheelhouse already. Try the cute little commune of Saint-Émilion for some of my faves!
6. Tempranillo. Love a Chorizo dog as much as I do? Well, you’re gonna need Tempranillo then! Don’t forget about the old adage: What Grows Together, Goes Together when we’re talking about regional food. Select a grape from the same region to make it one perfect pairing! Head into a region like Toro, Spain if you’re looking for a little more heft to your Tempranillo. The grape Tempranillo here is called: Tinto de Toro.
7. Dolcetto. A grape that goes by its Italian word that means ‘little sweet one’. But don’t let its name fool you, as it is nowhere near sweet. Soft and juicy, this medium bodied red is loaded with alluring notes of violets, raspberry, coffee and chocolate covered cherries. A great grape for pairing to the Italian side of your family. Italian sausages, here we go!
8. Ready for the whites? Yes? Then you know I’m going to declare: Riesling! Love your dog super spicy? Then THIS is your grape. From white sausages (like chicken or turkey) into that dog that is stacked high with pickled peppers, relish and jalapeños, Riesling is your girl. My advice, go straight to the German section and get to it! (Pfeffingen is always one of my favorites!)
9. Pinot Gris. I love me a fat rich Pinot Gris from the region of Alsace, France when enjoying a plate of Kielbasa. The rich honey like flavors of Pinot Gris, backed by all its sliced apple, pear and peach make this grape a perfect pairing to all those white meat gourmet sausages, too. Try out a chicken, green apple, gouda dog with an Alsatian Pinot Gris tonite! Need a bombtastic producer? Try on Marcel Deiss. He’s been one of my favorite producers for almost 20yrs. A winery I so adore!
10. Last but not least…go sparkling! And if you’re going sparkling, I’m going to encourage you to head right into the region of Champagne. Yep, I know its a bit boujee for National Hot Dog day, but is there a better way to do this? Especially if going for that tofu dog today, a dog made with seafood instead of pork or hey, even something spicy like the Chorizo dog I mentioned earlier — THIS, people, is the way to go. Go Champagne, or go home!
There you have it peeps, all the answers you need to enjoying one boozy National Hot Dog Day with all the right grapes. From my grill to yours, enjoy your day of dogs!
(Photo creds in order of appearance: Leslee Miller/Jay Wennington Photography/Quentin Dr Photography/Leslee Miller/Jeremy Wolfe/Jeremy Wolfe)