Yardbird Wine List Dissection: Made In The USA

South Beach newcomer Yardbird has us all thinking of fried chicken, bourbon, and biscuits. We gave you a brief preview of the food and a glimpse inside the opening party madness, but what you may not know is that they also cultivated an extremely user-friendly wine list. Offerings are separated into categories that identify the food factor, such as "white wines to pair with creamy or cheesy," and "red wines to pair with fried or crunchy." And naturally, there is a section devoted to "what to drink when you're eatin' chicken."

They decided to pay homage to American winemakers, with a completely domestic line-up that embraces both well-known and smaller-scale producers. We spoke to Allegra Angelo (previously the Sommelier at Michy's and Sra. Martinez), who curated Yardbird's wine list, which has more than 60 domestic wines. In addition to the usual suspects like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, they've added a surprising range of Zinfandels and Rieslings; most of these bottles are priced under $40. Angelo says that the selections "recognize the progressive spirit of the American wine industry."

An entirely American-based list was important to the owners and chef, apparently they really wanted the restaurant to not only be a celebration of Southern cooking and roots, but of what it is to be American. She feels that many of us "look to Europe as the grand model" and "we want to bring the attention

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back home."

What are some of the particular attractions of American wines, sometimes considered a bit behind on the terroir track, especially compared to French labels?
American wine is perceived as big and fruity. This is not the

case. There is a trend to make wines that are lower in alcohol and have

more acid. We want to showcase both styles, the big and the not so big.

It is a small list, but there is something for everyone. There is a

wine for the person that likes a white wine that is racing with acidity.

There is a wine for a person that likes a funky and meaty red wine. And

there is a wine for that person who has an annoying obsession with red


What prompted the decision to classify wine selections according to menu items like "fried and crunchy" for example?

If you taste the flavor of a flaky white fish, then you'll go to a Mediterranean restaurant that grills it with lemon and olive oil. When I saw the first draft of the menu, I noticed a focus on local ingredients, but more importantly, I noticed big flavors and textures, which is the heart of Southern cooking. Instead of pairing wines with "fish" or "meat," I realized that these big flavors/textures could be divided into categories (like fried, cheesy, saucy, smoky, and tart) to match the wines.

What characteristics make a certain white wine lend itself particularly to "creamy or cheesy," and "pickled and tart?"

Creamy and cheesy is a nice way of saying "Rich and Fatty." Fat needs acid or sweet. For example, would you rather have a glass of milk with a slice of pizza or an icy Coca-Cola? Coca-Cola is a perfect example because it is tart and sweet. The tartness cleans up the mouth like a toothbrush, and the sweet complements the fattiness of the cheese. For pickled and tart dishes, look for acid first. Tart with tart seems overbearing, but a tart wine with a tart dish actually mitigates the acid and allows the flavors of the ingredients to shine.

And what makes a red better for "saucy or tangy" versus "bold and hearty?"

Saucy and tangy implies barbecue. Tangy refers to a vinegar-based sauce, like home-made ketchup. Just like "Tart and Pickled" pair with tart wines, tangy wines pair with tart wines. But "Saucy" dishes have heavier proteins, like ribs or meatloaf, which pair well with wines that have more structure, reds instead of whites. Therefore "Saucy and Tangy" go well with red wines that have acid; these wines can be lighter expressions of zinfandel or bolder pinot noirs.

What were you looking for exactly in the "Eatin' Chicken" wines? What elements make a wine perfect for fried chicken?

When eating fried chicken it is important to consider where you are eating. I immediately envision a back porch and a grassy backyard with a July sunset. Whether it's summertime in Maine or Miami weather in November, drink rosé when you're dining outside. Drinking rosé is less about the pairing and more about a mood. For those who take their pairing seriously, look for off-dry whites or big and meaty red wines. The sweetness in an off-dry white plays well with the almost greasy and crunchy chicken skin while a big and meaty red plays well with the flavor of the chicken meat which is subtle but gamey.

Will the "Yard Sale" selections be rotating depending on how good of a deal you get on these wines?

Yard-Sale wines will be expanding. To begin, we are offering two wines at $10 a bottle each, yet this section will not only focus on inexpensive wine. We will add wines that we get for a bargain price, whether they are listed for $15 or $75. If we get a deal, we will pass it on to the customer. I look at it as the bargain shopping column. It's about the discount not about the price.

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