Cooking at home is made all the better with wine, and Carrie Lyn Strong is no stranger to popping great bottles in the kitchen. Born in New Hampshire, Strong kicked off her 13-year-plus wine career in New York City. After studying at the American Sommelier Association, Strong worked the floor and ran beverage programs for a handful of prestigious restaurants, including Jean-Georges Vongrichten’s Vong and Mercer Kitchen restaurants, as well as The Harrison, Aureole, and most recently, Casa Lever.
However, the global pandemic forced her to change direction. When Casa Lever announced its temporary closing in 2020, Strong uprooted herself to the countryside and now calls Pennsylvania her home. Always an avid and passionate cook, Strong found herself spending more time in the kitchen, frequently with something delicious to drink. When asked what her go-to choice is for cooking at home, her answer is almost immediate: bubbles.
According to Strong, not all that sparkles must come from Champagne. “My approach to cooking and wine is to make it more delicious and more approachable for the consumer,” she says. Finding affordable options is generally key: “It’s easy to just pull a bottle of any wine from the shelf based on price, or it’s easy to buy jar spaghetti sauce or pre-made mashed potatoes.”
Strong notes that while big-box grocery stores and wine depots make it easy to find budget-friendly sparkling wines, the available run-of-the-mill bottles are not always nuanced. “I want to show how easy dinner and wine pairing can be, while also being complex and delicious,” she says.
Here are 3 of her top picks:
Patrick Piuze creates this wine from 100% Pinot Noir that’s vinified and aged in steel before undergoing secondary fermentation in bottle. Fruit comes from vineyards near the small village of Tonnerre, northeast of Chablis, says Strong. “This bright and lively sparkling is sustainably grown, hand harvested, crushed, and spends only a few hours on the skins to express its beautiful pink color.” Strong describes it as fresh, flirty, and a perfect match with seafood. “Treat yourself to a make-your-own seafood pizza and enjoy with this Brut Nature Rosé.” The wine is bottled with zero dosage, meaning no sweet wine is added just before bottling.
This 100% Riesling comes from vineyards on Keuka Lake, located within New York’s Finger Lakes AVA. “Secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle and the wine is aged for 24 months in Dr. Frank’s historic underground cellars, with no additional dosage,” explains Strong. She describes this bottle as a “notably dry sparkling wine with bright flavors of green apple, zesty lemon curd, and exotic ginger.” Although many consider that green garden veggies are food-pairing nightmares, Strong finds that this bottle makes asparagus, broccoli, and artichokes sing. This bubbly is made using the traditional method, the same method used to make Champagne.
Fruit for this dark-hued bottle of bubbles comes from family-owned vineyard sites in Victoria, Australia.* “These bold bubbles are brooding and dark, with strong aromas of cracked pepper, salted licorice, black berries, and smoke,” says Strong. “I love this wrangler of a wine because it rounds up summertime barbecue meats!” This wine has been produced since the early 20th century. Made by traditional method, its base wine is lees-aged for 24 months; a very small amount of Best’s Liqueur Muscat is used as the wine’s dosage.
*Although the retailer lists this wine as coming from Western Australia, it actually hails from the state of Victoria.