I’m really into El Niño right now. I’d swipe right for El Niño without regrets.
A seemingly infinite gang of snowflakes usually shows up in mid-Michigan around this time of year to demoralize every person who’s ever cared about getting somewhere on time. I’m over it. Luckily, El Niño has saved us a bit this year in that regard.
But while there’s less snow out there, I still don’t want to have to brave the cold to get tasty food. Fortunately, we live in a city teeming with delicious options made by hard working cooks and chefs and delivered by wonderful drivers who get in and out of their cars all day to keep Lansing happily (and warmly) fed.
And I’ll be damned if I don’t have some wine around the house to enjoy with my traveling food treasures.
Aldaco's Taco Bar on South Cedar Street in Lansing is a safe pick for, well, tacos, of course. (Or you can try my personal favorite, enchiladas.) I’ll never be mad at someone offering me a Tecate while I stuff my face with these treats, but I dig on white wines that are a touch more acidic without too much alcohol.
Riesling is a good option here, but I found the top-notch 2011 albariño from Spain’s Granbazan Winery to be a perfect pairing. It’s florally aromatic, with soft ripe apricot, nectarine and green apple notes, and it calms the spices well. There are not many albariño wines on Lansing shelves right now; I’ve found maybe six or seven. To make matters worse, a few of the mass-produced versions are wimpy and almost tasteless. At about $20, the Granbazan is a surprising value.
Chinese food has long been a staple for delivery or take-out in our household. Lucky House delivers in the Okemos area — lucky for us. I pledge my allegiance to General Tso.
These are magical morsels here. That sweet glaze blankets and envelops, coddling your taste buds into delicious submission. I’m happy to report that there’s a southern Italian chardonnay out there that’s a perfect companion for the general.
Rivera’s 2014 Preludio No. 1 chardonnay is an outlier for the Italian south. It comes from the somewhat-flat Italian region of Puglia, which is mostly known for average, full-bodied red wines made from primitivo (aka zinfandel) or negroamaro grapes. There’s only a bit of an oak influence in this chardonnay. Those toffee/ caramel notes stay in the background, and the super-juicy red apple, lemon curd and peach flavors are excitingly bright. It’s a young, lively wine that, at 13 percent, reins in the alcohol well. At roughly $18, Rivera’s chardonnay is impressive. Not as impressive as the 800-year-old, awesomely octagonal Castel del Monte that its Puglian sub-region is named after, but close.
This column wouldn’t be complete with out a mention of Jet’s Pizza. The eight-corner pizza completes me; it fills the void. Those inbetween crevices are heavenly, where cheesy decadence and crusty textures collide.
Of course, Italian wines are a great pick: Chianti classico, barbera, and dolcetto would all taste lip-smackingly on point with your pie. But Grenache from France is a fun left turn for anyone looking for a slight counter-punch of semi-spicy fruit.
Domaine de la Tourade’s 2012 Gigondas is 80 percent grenache and 20 percent syrah. From the Rhône River valley, about an hour’s drive north of Marseille, this wine is raspberry and black pepper at its core, with some neat orange peel and licorice notes thrown in. It’s not so overtly earthy that California zinfandel drinkers would be turned off. You should be able to find it for around $25.
If you want to go the value route, check out Zestos’ garnacha (about $10) from just outside of Madrid. While it doesn’t have the depth of Tourade’s Gigondas, it is affordable and dependably flavorful.
Lastly, if you’ve not feasted on Eastside Fish Fry on East Kalamazoo Street in Lansing, you’re missing out. Their catfish nuggets get a lot of mentions from locals — and rightfully so. If you go that route, I’d point you immediately back to that nifty Rivera chardonnay.
But seriously folks, Eastside’s deep-fried Twinkies, alongside some dessert wine, should probably be in your Mardi Gras arsenal. I wouldn’t go with Port or anything too caramel-like, but rather aim for a brighter, fruitier sweetness.
Sauternes from Bordeaux would be fun, but I give a slight edge to Airfield Estate’s 2013 late harvest riesling. It’s loaded with ripe honeyed peach, lemon cake, ripe melon and crème brulée-like sweetness. Expect it to run you about $20.
Yes, we’re lucky enough to not have to dig out our porches, sidewalks and cars as often as last year. But that doesn’t mean you can’t stock up on wine on the easier days and phone a food friend on the harder days.
Justin King is a certified sommelier and resident of Williamston. He is part owner of Bridge Street Social, a wine-focused restaurant opening this soon in DeWitt.