Ciders, like these Crooked City ciders, naturally pair well with bratwurst. Photo: Red Door Catering

With summer in full swing and July 4th just a day away, there’s no better time to fire up the grill and roast some hot dogs. Most of us grab an ice cold beer to wash down summertime’s quintessential food. While that’s a classic pairing, why not try something a little unexpected with that frankfurter?

Forget beer and hot dogs. Instead, pop the cork on a bottle of wine, or pour a glass of chilled hard cider. We turned to a local winery and cider house for suggestions of wines and ciders to pair with hot dogs in all their glorious forms — from all-beef American dogs dressed with mustard and relish to pepper, pickle and onion-loaded Chicago-style, chili and cheese-smothered or sauerkraut-topped hot dogs. Here are the delicious matches.

Rock Wall winemaker Shauna Rosenblum tried a lot of wines with hot dogs and sausages before finding the perfect pairings. Photo: Shauna Rosenblum


When it comes to hot dog and wine pairings, Rock Wall winemaker Shauna Rosenblum discovered some surprising results.

“With the traditional hot dog with all-American toppings — ketchup, mustard, relish — almost everything was an absolute disaster,” Rosenblum said.

That includes a Grenache Counoise Rosé blend, Italian-style Montepulciano, Cabernet Franc and Tannat. Chardonnay failed too.

What worked? Rock Wall’s 2016 Monte Rosso Vineyard Reserve Zinfandel ($55). The Zin’s bright acidity and alcohol cut through the link’s fat, and the wine’s honeycomb, raspberry and chocolate flavors hold up to the toppings.

“As my husband said, it’s an all-American hot dog with an all-American wine,” Rosenblum said.

Eating a naked dog? Rosenblum goes for a balanced, lightly oaked Chardonnay all day, such as the 2106 Santa Lucia Chardonnay ($28) from Monterey County. The Chard’s lush body, apple and pear fruit, and cinnamon, nutmeg and caramel spice match the smoky grilled flavors, and also goes with the yeasty brioche buns she favors. When she adds sauerkraut, Chardonnay plays well, but the 2016 Montepulciano ($30), a zippy acidic red, is even better.

For loaded, grilled sausage, seasonings matter. Take Italian fennel sausage. Rosenblum finds a perfect partner with her 2016 Uncle Roget’s Rosé ($14.40), a Grenache Counoise blend, thanks to the wine’s herbal notes that highlight the link’s anise herb flavors. On the other hand, a smoky barbecue chipotle sausage works best with the Montepulciano, which has a zesty and smoky character that brings out the sausage’s savory flavors.

Rosenblum said her most exciting pairing is mango jalapeño sausage and the 2016 Russian River Estate Chardonnay ($40), with tropical mango fruit and butter notes. That fruit enhances the sweet and spicy meat and the creaminess tames the heat.

Rock Wall’s 2015 Holbrook Mitchell Cabernet Franc ($50) is Rosenblum’s pick for garlic artichoke sausage. While artichoke is notoriously tricky to pair with wine, the green vegetal character of the savory Cab Franc highlights the artichoke’s flavors. Zinfandel is also a good match for jalapeño-topped dogs, because the wine’s acid matches the tangy peppers and the sweet honeycomb notes cut through the heat.

Another surprise pairing — beer bratwurst and Rock Wall’s 2014 The Palindrome Tannat ($28), a big, bold red wine grape widely grown in Uruguay.

“We thought Chardonnay was going to be the best match, but the beer bratwurst is super funky,” Rosenblum said. “Our rose petal, tarry and leathery Tannat can withstand the brat’s funky herbal, savory flavors.”

Rock Wall Wine Company, 2301 Monarch St., Alameda

The versatile Crooked City Apri-Hended apricot cider goes well with a mustard and relish-topped cider boiled brat. Photo: Red Door Catering


Another option for beer brats? Turn to cider instead. Crooked City’s cider boss Dana Bushouse says cider and hot dogs or sausage make a great summertime combo.

“Traditionally cider pairs very well with meat, especially aged and cured charcuterie or bratwurst,” she said.

Speaking of bratwurst, Bushouse likes to boil hers in a straight apple or pear cider, instead of beer. For spicy brats, she recommends cooking them in Crooked Cider’s Ginger Bomb ginger cider. She’ll also make sauerkraut by boiling it in her Hella Hip Hopped Cider to make a tasty hopped sauerkraut.

Because apple cider vinegar comes from cider, Bushouse likes to substitute it for white or red wine vinegar when making coleslaw. Bushouse also favors pairing cider with loaded franks, such as chili cheese or Chicago dogs.

“The great thing about ciders is they are generally lighter than a heavy beer,” she says, and don’t overwhelm the hot dog or sausage flavors.

Take Yes Please!, a Satsuma mandarin citrus-infused cider. The crisp, tart cider makes a perfect match for a chili cheese dog because it can tone down the overwhelming oniony, meaty and cheesy flavors and refresh the palate, so you can enjoy another loaded bite.

The sport peppers, tomatoes, pickles, onions and celery salt toppings on a Chicago dog can be difficult to pair, but Bushouse finds her Apri-Hended apricot cider stands up to the salty, tangy and briny flavors.

“Apri-hended is a dry cider,” she said, “but it has a false sweetness to it because of the apricot’s fructose, and it balances out the spicy bite you get from the peppers.”

All Crooked City ciders are $7 per pint, $32 per 64-ounce growler.

Crooked City Cider, 477 25th St., Oakland

"*" indicates required fields

See an error that needs correcting? Have a tip, question or suggestion? Drop us a line.