Summertime, and the grilling is easy…especially with a glass of wine in your hand. Not sure how to choose the right ones? Use this as your cheat sheet.
Most grills see more beef than anything else, so if it’s a steak for you, a slightly serious cabernet sauvignon is a perfect companion. I love the dark, velvety fruit of Twenty Rows Cabernet Sauvignon ($27; available at 20 Brix, Milford). It can be slightly tense upon opening, but that disappears with aeration, or with a mouthful of rib eye. If you’re grilling a hamburger, there is no better All-American partner than red Zinfandel. The chocolaty red fruit soars out of the Joel Gott Zinfandel ($17; The Wine Guy, Norwood) which is a richly textured smash with a burger. Fish, on the other hand, can be tricky. Nowadays more people seem to be grabbing a red wine when they grill fish, but red wine often highlights the “fishy” flavor of the meat and brings about a taste in the wine itself not unlike metal shavings. A dry Riesling from Alsace—like the lime and stone-fruity The Furst Riesling ($15; Wine World, Anderson Twp.)—is a spectacular, succulent pairing. If you prefer red, or in this case pink, try a dry rosé instead. The Charles & Charles Rosé ($13; The Wine Guy, Norwood) from Washington is absurdly delicious and full of rather weighty red fruit flavors that give it many of the charms of red wine.
Grilled lamb is a miraculous meeting of two great flavors. Its vivid vim dovetails beautifully with the smoke and char that fire imparts, and it deserves a wine with similarly celestial qualities. Despite its ominous name, Owen Roe’s Sinister Hand ($28; Piazza Discepoli, Glendale, Madeira, White Oak) is a splendid ally. This luxurious, supple, Grenache-based blend from Washington is made in the style of the great wines of France’s Rhône Valley but has a more neon character from fruit grown in U.S. soil.
When a pizza is on the table, everybody runs for Italian wine. Chianti is the common choice, but Barbera, an excellent grape from northern Italy, is almost always better, particularly with a grilled pizza. The Enotria Barbera ($15; Marty’s Hops and Vines, North College Hill) from California is dynamite, lighting up your mouth with great blue and black fruit flavors, buttressing the pizza sauce with a velveteen luster that will keep you coming back for more.
The somewhat bedeviled production of grill-smoking perfect ribs deserves a bottle (or three) of Austin Hope Troublemaker ($15; Little Sonoma, West Chester). Call your friends over, because the smooth complexities of this lip-smacking California Syrah blend are so good with ribs you’ll need to share. Besides, it’s better to have the role of troublemaker already taken by the time your friends arrive.
Originally published in the July 2012 issue.
Bottle photographs courtesy of: Graziano Family of Wines, Napa Valley Wines, Owen Roe Wines, Charles & Charles Wines, Eagle Eye Brands, Trinchero Family Estates, Hope Family Wines