Sarah Tracey is the new sommelier at Bedford & Co., a restaurant in The Renwick Hotel in New York City, where the culinary centerpiece is an oak-fired grill inspired by chef John DeLucie’s travels in Argentina.
Tracey was most recently at La Sirena, an Italian restaurant in the Maritime Hotel, by Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali. Before that, she spent about six years at City Winery, a local winemaker and entertainment venue.
Now her task is pairing wine with grilled food, from beets to ribs.
“Pairing rules apply across all styles of cooking, but for me when you’re talking about grilling over wood — grilling over white oak, like we do — I want to tread softly with very oaky wines. Just that light touch of oak is really beautiful, but I think too much can be kind of a fighting match between the food and wine,” she said.
Here are some of her pairing suggestions with wood-grilled dishes.
Ribs slathered in sweet and tangy barbecue sauce
“I usually go red with something like that, and Zinfandel is my go-to. It’s the great American wine, and a lot of Zins have those great cherry cola notes that play well with a traditional barbecue sauce.
“For a white wine, I’m definitely a texture matcher. A rib has a richness and fattiness to it, so I might go with a fuller bodied white. It may or may not be a Chardonnay; I might go for a Viognier, or a Rhone-style white blend I think can be killer with something like this. Even a white Burgundy [Chardonnay] that has a little bit of acid on it, but also a little bit of that round toastiness can also be nice."
“The traditional steak pairing would be a Cabernet Sauvignon, but somehow when you get it on the grill and you get that char and that really savory crust, I think a northern Rhone Syrah is a fun way to echo the flavors that the grill brings to the party, because you have some pepper in the profile of the wine. You have some smokiness and meatiness to it, too."
Whole grilled branzino
“You have the sweet flesh of the fish, a little savory note, a little toast from the grill. Think about squeezing a lemon over it: I always go for a light, citrusy wine. That is a nice contrast to those smoky flavors. We have a great Sancerre [Sauvignon Blanc] that I pour all the time. I also recently brought in a Torrontés from Argentina that has so much bright citrus to it, and really high acidity, bone-dry finish, but some more opulent fruits in the aroma, which I think is really nice with grilled seafood dishes.
“I’d try to go as light-bodied as possible with a red wine. A classic light red for summertime, Gamay — a cru Beaujolais — I think is perfect with anything off the grill, and you can chill it."
“I like really smoky wines with burgers because for me it’s like the same effect as putting a slice of bacon on it. So, back to the Zin.”
“Our roasted beet dish has a compelling sweetness, so a Vouvray or Chenin Blanc from the Loire with a little residual sugar, but still enough acidity to lift the food that you’re eating. Or, honestly, a Cabernet Franc, like a Chinon from the Loire, would go well with the beets. Cab Franc also has a kind of vegetal quality. That would also be great with grilled asparagus or broccolini. Or a Sauvignon Blanc, which also often has those vegetal qualities.”
Long Island duck breast
“For me, Pinot Noir is made for duck. The more plush style of Sonoma, Russian River, is working really beautifully with the duck, but we have some Burgundy and Oregon Pinot Noir as well.”