Ask Alpana: 6/19

Master Sommelier and Check Please! Host Alpana Singh joins us on Chicago Tonight at 7:00 pm with summer wine travel tips, BYOB wine pairing recommendations and more.

Wines For BYOB Dining This Summer:

Palazzone Rubbio1) Italian: Palazzone Rubbio Umbria Rosso -- Italy $13
“Umbria often gets overshadowed by their more famous Tuscan neighbor to the north but little hidden gems like this blend of mostly Sangiovese blended with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon proves the road less traveled if often the most rewarding. Pair the robust dark cherry fruit notes of this wine with tangy tomato sauce or braised meats and pastas finished with olive oil.”

2) Asian: Indaba Chenin Blanc, South Africa -- $9 Indaba Chenin Blanc
“The home of Chenin Blanc is the Loire Valley in France where it is used to produce off-dry wines such as Vouvray. South Africa produces its own style of Chenin Blanc that is a closer match to Sauvignon Blanc in style. The bright and crisp yellow apple notes of this wine pair well with the clean and streamlined elements of Sushi, the fresh herbs often featured in Vietnamese food, the spiciness of Chinese cuisine and the sweet-salty-and-sour tang of Thai dishes.”

Cono Sur Cabernet Sauvignon3) Mexican: Cono Sur Cabernet Sauvignon-Carmenere -- Chile $11
“Carmenere is the signature grape of Chile and it has a particular affinity for the flavors often featured in Mexican cuisine: cumin, oregano, garlic and chilies of various kinds. Carmenere on its own can sometimes be too herbaceous, but a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon helps round out the bell pepper notes, which is why I like this blend.”

4) Mediterranean: Masaya Blanc Lebanon -- $12Massaya Blanc
“If your idea of a good BYOB tends to favor kebabs, hummus, roasted eggplant salad, feta and pita bread, consider this fresh and lively white wine from Lebanon for your next outing. Massaya Blanc is made with Clairette, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Obeidi, a variety that thrives in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. Just imagine the bright citrus driven flavors of this selection acting in the same manner as a fresh squeeze of lemon juice.”

BYOB options: “People enjoy BYOB more often in the summer as we're looking for fun and affordable things to do with our friends and family. These are all affordable wine recommendations, but they can certainly be paired with a dinner cooked at home.”

Summer Wine Travel Tips:

1) Drink the local stuff: "Drink wines indigenous to the region, they are often the most tasty and affordable. The house wines are the best way to go and some of these selections are rarely available outside of the country of origin so it is best to take advantage while you are there. Inquire about specialty liqueurs that are produced within the area -- these too often never make it abroad."

2) How to track down the wine once you're home: "If you do find something unique and interesting that you would like to enjoy once again upon returning, take a photo of the label or note down the contact details of the winery. Email them and ask if they have a US importer. Once you locate the US importer, inquire as to who the distributor is in your state. Once you locate the distributor, it will be very easy for your favorite wine shop to special order it for you."

3) Scheduling Winery Visits: "Every state in the union produces some style of wine and chances are wine country is never too far away from where you're probably visiting. Here are good resources for planning winery visits beforehand for the major wine producing regions in the US. Some tours may need to be arranged in advance, and it's always good to know what the tasting room prices are as well to plan your budget accordingly."

- Wine Country: good overall site that lists wineries, tasting room times, suggested itineraries, maps, spa, resort and hotel information

- Oregon Wine: excellent resource for planning a wine vacation in Oregon

- Washington State: excellent resource for planning a wine vacation in Washington

- Uncork New York!: excellent resource for New York state

- Illinois Wine: for wine country in our own backyard

Six Grapes PortSweet Red Wine:

"It is very difficult to source an actual sweet red wine but your best bet here would be a fortified wine such as Port. There is a high phenolic component to Port wines as great effort is taken to extract as much color from the grape skins as possible (researchers believe this is where the most heart healthy components are found.) The other advantage of Port is that an open bottle will last two to three weeks, as opposed to an unfortified wine which starts losing flavors within a day or so of opening. I would suggest something like the Graham's Six Grapes which is available for around $22 a bottle. A serving size would be 2-3 oz."