Pinot noir

The Best Wines for Your Summer Picnic

You don't need champagne to enjoy a fried chicken lunch.

By Timothy Malcolm Published in the June 2020 issue of Houstonia Magazine

We asked Sean Beck, the beverage director of H-Town Restaurant Group (Backstreet Café, Caracol, Hugo’s, Xochi), to recommend us a red, white, and rosé—available online, in local wine stores, or through H-Town’s restaurants—that will pair well with our fried chicken picnic.

“Everyone throws out fried chicken and Champagne,” says Beck, “but it’s such a lazy wine trope, because Champagne works with anything fried and salty.”

Instead he reaches for the 2018 vintage of Dry Creek Vineyard’s Loire Valley chenin blanc, which imparts melon and peach notes along with a bursting floral scent.

“And if you like your fried chicken spicy, it can handle it,” he adds.

For those who still want some bubbles, Beck recommends Domaine Michel Briday Crémant de Bourgogne rosé. This Burgundy wine made from pinot noir grapes, a rich mix of tart berry and sweet currant, delivers on both taste and that craving for bubbly.

“I’m hard-pressed to find a bottle that delivers as much as this one,” says Beck.

Pinot noir grapes go wonderfully with fried chicken since their flavors don’t typically overwhelm salty and savory bites. Beck says he likes the pinots from Pali Wine Company, which produces wines sourced from a number of vineyards around California and Oregon. Consider the 2017 Riviera pinot, using grapes from the Russian River Valley and aged in French oak barrels.

“There’s acid to it; it has that forest-floor aroma with dried herbs and hints of mushroom,” says Beck. “It’s a lovely pinot noir and not over the top.”

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