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Russ Briley: Wine and comfort-food pairings

From chips to cheesesteak, there is a perfect wine

Posted: April 20, 2012 6:00 a.m.
Updated: April 20, 2012 6:00 a.m.
Russ Briley Russ Briley
Russ Briley

This column was originally published in the Ventura County Star on Feb. 19, 2011.

One of my best friends and fellow "Off the Charts Wine Club" member invited over his family and many members of our wine club to watch the Super Bowl.

There were lots of typical Super Bowl party foods, including chili, soups and finger snacks, as well as the usual assortment of chips, vegetable platters and a variety of dips. The difference at his party was the parade of football fans coming through the door was not holding the usual six-packs of beer but bottles of outstanding wine, instead.

As I got ready for the game, which for me is gathering as much food as I can in one trip, I went for Phil's famous chili and a plate of finger foods. I then looked at the variety of wine bottles lined up on the kitchen counter. At your normal Super Bowl party you'd grab a beer and you'd be done with it.

I had to look to see what would go good with chili. Yes, I was wine pairing our Super Bowl spread. There was no Zinfandel, which goes great with chili, so I decided on a red blend from Paso Robles, which had about 20 percent Zinfandel. It paired great with the chili.

I then started thinking that many of us do not have time to cook elaborate dinners and we sometimes pick up takeout food or make that great one-dish casserole. While it is pretty easy to pair wine with elegant meals, what about the other food?
With a lot of help from the outstanding wine pairing book "What to Drink with What you Eat" by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, here are some comfort food wine pairing suggestions.

Macaroni and cheese: chardonnay (unoaked)
Tuna Noodle Casserole: chardonnay (unoaked)
Tortilla chips and salsa or guacamole: New Zealand sauvignon blanc
Potato chips: Champagne
Popcorn: Champagne
Pizza: Barbera or Chianti
Hot dogs: Riesling or rose
Hamburgers: Beaujolais or Syrah
Bucket of fried chicken: Gewürztraminer or Pinot Noir
French fries: Champagne
Chicken pot pie: Beaujolais
Meatloaf: Cabernet Sauvignon
Peanuts: Chardonnay (oaked)
Quesadillas: Sauvignon Blanc
Philly cheesesteak: Merlot
Beef tacos: Tempranillo
Wisconsin cheddar cheese: Cabernet sauvignon or merlot.

© Ventura County Star

As well as writing a wine column for the Ventura County Star, Russ Briley, long time Santa Clarita Valley resident, recently completed the Wine Studies program at COC. Russ and his wife Nancy also own Nuggucciet Cellars, where they produce small lots of Pinot Noir wine. Visit Email Briley at



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