Tonight’s Wineup – Perfect Wine Pairings for Classic Chicago Foods

Although the Cubs’ season died a pitiful death last night, every other Chicago sport is just gearing up. Whether it’s another nail-biter of a Bears game or a non-stop party with the Bulls and the Blackhawks, there’s no denying that watching sports demands the proper sustenance. From the classic Chicago hotdog to the inimitable deep-dish pizza, let go of the beer bottle and try one of these wine pairings from some of Chicago’s most knowledgeable wine connoisseurs (and drown your Cubs-related sorrows).

The Chicago Hotdog

The strong flavors of the Chicago ‘dog make it a tricky pairing – what really goes with raw onion and radioactive-green relish? The answer, Peter Schwarzbach of Vin Chicago says, is prosecco. “It’s simple, it’s fun, it’s easy,” Schwarzbach says. “I like a prosecco we carry called ‘Hi!‘ because the flavors are just clean and nice.”

“It’s a crowd-pleaser,” he adds. And at less than 9 dollars a bottle, you can feel free to pour heavy.

Another option Schwarzbach offers is a central coast pinot noir called Wonderwall from Spanish Springs Vineyard. “It’s rich and has a medium body but it’s light enough not to fight,” he says.

Good Grapes owner Theresa Lucas also suggests a white to go with the ‘dog – KWV ($12), a dry and tangy sauvignon blanc from South Africa that will reinforce the tangy flavors of the hotdog toppings. She also suggests Donnhoff ($22), a dry German Riesling.

“You want something very dry, not something with a long finish,” Lucas says. “You want the hotdog flavors to dominate but also play with the character of the wine.” 

Editor’s Note: If you really feel like celebrating, try the delightfully mineral-y Ruinart champagne ($75) from Binny’s, the official champagne provider of the Cubs.


Pairing a wine with bratwurst is a little easier, provided you go with a classic flavor. Schwarzbach likes two different options, depending on your tastes. His first pick is a California zinfandel called Old Vines from Bedrock Wine Company in the Sonoma valley. “It has so much character,” Schwarzbach says. “It’s a little animal and has such a full body.” Its berry and pepper notes will play nicely with the smoke and spice of a classic spicy bratwurst but won’t get lost behind them.

Another option is a chenin blanc, again from California. Wilson Ranch from Dry Creek Vineyard is “clean, crisp, drink anytime with anything wine,” Schwarzbach says.

Lucas suggests Brandborg ($19) a pinot noir that has “some, but not big body.” The wine should be able to pair with something that has a lot of flavor, she says, but a wine that is too full-bodied will clash with the sausage. 

Italian Beef

Reds rule over the kingdom of Italian beef, much like they would with a steak. Schwarzbach recommends the Neyers vineyard Sage Canyon, a red blend that he describes as balanced, with a nice spiciness.

Schwarzbach’s other pick is a Domaine Paul-Henri Thillardon Beaujolais called Les Carriers from the lesser-known Chenas region of Burgundy. “It has a lot of minerality, it’s just tasty,” he says. “It’s not jammy but it’s food-friendly.”

Another pick is The Immortal Zin ($16), a California offering from the Peirano Estate. A jammy wine with a long, smooth finish, the zin can go with the bigger flavors of the beef, Lucas says.

She also recommends a Shiraz blend from Robertson Winery called Mourvedre Viognier ($12), a New Zealand offering that is just as spicy as the hot peppers on the sandwich.

Deep-Dish Pizza

A deep-dish pizza can be treated almost exactly like any other Italian food – there’s going to be a lot of acidity from the tomatoes, a yeasty richness from the crust and lots of salt and spice thanks to layers of cheese and meat.

There are a lot of directions you can take with this pairing; Schwarzbach offers up a Chianti Classico from Castello di Bossi in Tuscany. Nicely balanced with a medium body and notes of leather and dark fruit, Schwarzbach describes this as another “drink with almost anything” wine.

His other pick is a red blend from Field Recordings in California called Fiction – Seventh Edition. Full-bodied and bursting with berry notes, this strong wine stands up to equally strong flavors like garlic and sausage (and, Schwarzbach notes, also goes great with anything off the barbecue).

Lucas favors medium to light wines with a deep-dish pizza, including an Italian agriverde, Piane di Maggio Montepulciano ($14). “It’s a very smooth, juicy Italian wine,” she says. “It will go with whatever is on the pizza.”

Ultimately, Schwarzbach says, “drink the wine you like” with whatever you’re eating and it’s a surefire homerun … or touchdown … or three-pointer … or goal.

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