Memorial Day marks the official opening of the holy grill, every bit as much the center of summer life as the kitchen is the center of winter warmth. The key to pairing wines with grilled foods is finding grillin’ & chillin’ wines that keep you refreshed, that won’t weigh you down in hot weather, and yet are still intense enough to stand up to the smoke and char flavors of the grill or the spicy, zesty flavors of barbecue sauce. Those big tannic, jammy wines, those high alcohol reds, those big Napa Valley Cabs, those heavy, oaky Chards that seem so right on cold winter evenings prove to be downright exhausting in summer. Luckily, there is a wealth of medium to light bodied, yet full flavored wines that come in white, red, and rosé and pair with well with the dishes of summer:
1. Grilled vegetables, shell fish or lighter fish, like trout all call for crisp wines with good acidity. Try a sparkling wine, a refreshing Cava from Spain or a Prosecco from Italy. Look for an Unoaked Chard, sometimes called “unwooded,” or even “naked” Chardonnay. Venture into a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from France or California; or try one of the many less familiar whites from Italy, like Gavi, Soave, or Vermentino. Try a Vinho Verde from Portugal. Try a pale and delicious rosé from Germany or a dry Austrian Gruner Veltliner:
Geyser Peak California Sauvignon Blanc has a new label but retains all the qualities that has made it our most popular Sauvignon Blanc—balance, lovely fruit, crisp acidity, and up to the char of the grill.
Villa Wolf Rosé is 100% Pinot Noir with a delicate peachy pink color, with strawberry and plum fruit flavors.
Pratsch Gruner Veltliner is fresh, citrusy with flavors of crisp apples and a hint of pepper. A 1 Liter bottle, it is a great buy. 100% Certified Organic
2. For richer grilled fish like salmon, grilled chicken, or brats, try a white Grillo from Sicily, a Cotes du Rhone White Blend or Rosé, a Pinot Noir or a Pinot Gris from Oregon, a Beaujolais from France. Chill whites and rosés and don’t be afraid to cool those reds.
Pike Road Oregon Pinot Gris or Pinot Noir This pair, a red and a white from Oregon, is made to pair with grilled, cedar-planked salmon. The Pinot Gris (just another name for Pinot Grigio!) is zesty, with pear, apple and citrus flavors. Its medium body stands up to the rich texture and flavor of grilled salmon or even brats. The Pinot Noir is classic elegant Oregon Pinot Noir, clear in color and clean in flavor. It has a concentrated tart cherry flavor that complements the flavors of the charred salmon.
3. For those hearty grilled meats like beef or lamb try a cool climate Zin from Amador Country or explore some new wines, a Barbera from Italy, a Tempranillo from Spain. Remember that lighter, less tannic, more acidic red wines can be cooled slightly chilled.
Mano a Mano Tempranillo from old vines in La Mancha region of Spain. It both fresh and earthy, easy to drink and made to serve with grilled meat, especially lamb.
Montevina Amador County Zinfandel is always a delightful surprise with its smooth, elegance and lush black currant fruit. It comes from the cooler climate of the Sierra Foothills so not as jammy and hot as Zins from Lodi. It stands up to the heartier grilled meats without being a heavy wine.
4. Sticky sweet and spicy barbecue sauced grilled fare presents a slightly different issue for food and wine pairing. In general, sweet and hot food calls for gulps of well chilled, light, refreshing, low-alcohol wines like Lambrusco, Moscato, Michigan Riesling, Gewurztraminer, or Sangria. Look for our delicious new Begonia Sangria from Spain.
Begonia Sangria in a 1 Liter bottle from Grenache grapes, infused with herbs, spices, flowers, and the essence of Valencia oranges, is the best we have tasted. Summer in a bottle! Serve it over ice.