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This Wine Has Pop!

Zinfandel and Cracker Jack move to center stage.


Paige Hermreck

Cheese platters beware: There’s a faster, cheaper, tastier complement to Chardonnay. It’s called popcorn. And that’s not just hot air.

“It’s a chameleon,” says Matt Rice, the tasting room lead at Wente Vineyards. “You can pair it with anything.”

A recent trip to Sonoma showed winery after winery offering seasoned popcorn to accompany and enhance their wines: a crisp Chardonnay paired with lemon-pepper popcorn, an earthy Zinfandel alongside popcorn with truffle salt. We even found a Russian River winery handing out Crunch ’n Munch, and another serving Zin with a mix of caramel and cheese popcorns.

If you’re serving a caramel-style popcorn, Rice recommends small glasses of sweet wine, such as Muscat or late-harvest Riesling. “It’s an adult prize with your Cracker Jack,” he says.

Educate your palate by playing with popcorn pairings at home. Toss air-popped popcorn with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and a drizzle of olive oil. Pair it with a zingy Chardonnay.  And then with a big buttery Chardonnay. The richer wine wins hands down.

Winemaker Karl Wente calls himself a “Chardonnay junkie” and a “truffle junkie.” Accordingly, he says popcorn with truffle salt is perfect with barrel-aged Chardonnay. “It brings out a whole other layer of richness and complexity.”

With spicy popcorn, such as the togarashi-tossed treat from Lafayette’s revamped Park Bistro and Bar, choose a crisp white, such as the 2012 Groth Sauvignon Blanc—one of the Park’s six “special wines.” Says Rice, “You want something to cool that pepper and balance it out. It’s like Indian food: You don’t want a big Chardonnay with tikka masala.”

So, if you happen upon a bag of Jamaican Spice popcorn from Walnut Creek’s Cornology, get your corkscrew—and choose wisely.

For recipes, visit diablomag.com/popcorn.


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