Monday was the first holiday to open the summer season, and although not everyone was basking in the sun, it was the day to at least think warm thoughts. Memorial Day is also the symbolic start of the barbecue season when every outdoor chef becomes a fearless carnivore. Ribs, burgers, venison, chicken – anything that will take a rub or slather.
As summer approaches and the invitations are extended for family or neighborhood barbecues, it’s time to line up the wines. The goal should be to keep the wines fun, light and interesting.
Given the mix of sweet and spicy food preparations, there is much to think about. Whether you have a tapenade or a tomato-based sauce will dictate which direction to take. For instance, syrah/shiraz or zInfandel complement tomato-based sauces that lean toward sweet. If there is spice or mustard, you’ll need to find a foil, such as sauvignon blanc, sangiovese or rosè.
Otherwise, a meat without a lot of sauce can take a variety of foods.
Port: zinfandel, syrah, rosè, Spanish garnacha, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc.
Brisket: zinfandel, cabenet sauvignon, Cotes du Rhone, tempranillo, or red blends.
Ribs: zinfandel, shiraz, barbera, chianti.
Chicken: sauvignon blanc, rosè Beaujolais, chardonnay, pinot grigio.
Burgers: tempranillo, shiraz, zinfandel, red blends.
Steak: Malbec, cabernet sauvignon, full-bodied zinfandel, tannat, brunello di montalcino or salice salentino.
If fish is your choice for the grill, you again need to think about the sauce. An herb-based sauce is best paired with white wines, such as sauvignon blanc, riesling, or chardonnay. But tuna and salmon are made for red wines, especially a full-bodied pinot noir or a sparkling rosè.
Here are 10 barbecue wines to get you in the grilling mood:
Amalaya Malbec 2017 ($16). Blended with tannat and petit verdot, this muscular malbec from Salta, Argentina, is rich in red cherry and raspberry flavors. Goes with: steak.
Colome Malbec 2017 ($25). Made entirely of malbec grapes, this wine from the Calchaqui Valley in Salta, Argentina has a medium body and good length. Red berry flavors. Goes with: steak or burgers.
Bodegas Faustino V Rioja Red Reserva 2013 ($30). We loved the generous fruit flavors of this simple but delicious blend of tempranillo and mazuelo grapes. Nicely balanced with integrated oak and bright cherry flavors and a dash of spice. Goes with: ribs, burgers, flank steak.
Domaine de Cala Rosè 2018 ($16). From the heart of Provence, this rosè is relatively new to the field. A classic blend of cinsault, syrah, grenache and rolle, it as red fruit character and a dash of spice. For $25 you can get a version of this wine aged in oak for three months – a rarity for rosè. Goes with: salmon, pork or chicken.
Public Radio Paso Robles Red Wine 2016 ($25). Grounded Wine Company has a winner with this luxuriously rich blend of grenache, syrah and petite sirah. Bold plum and cherry flavors with a dash of cinnamon. Goes with: ribs, burgers, pork.
Casanova di Neri Irrosso 2015 ($22). You get a good bang for your buck with the rosso di montacino from Tuscany. It is 75 percent sangiovese with the balance made up of colorino. Aged in oak for 12 months and in bottle for another six months, it has mature and round red berry flavors and a touch of vanilla. We loved it. Goes with: steak.
Bootleg Red Blend 2015 ($38). With all of the insipid, zinfandel-based blends on the market, we can grow very tired of this category. But this one builds on merlot with portions of petite sirah, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and petit verdot. This combination gives the wine more grip and less of the ripe flavor zinfandel delivers. Plum and blueberry flavors with a touch of strawberry, tobacco and allspice. Generous aromas of espresso and wild blackberries. Goes with: ribs, tomato-based sauces, pork.
Santedame Chianti Classico 2015 ($18). Varietal bright red fruit flavors, soft mouthfeel and medium body. Balanced acidity and more depth than your normal chianti. Ribs, chicken.
St. Supery Dollarhide Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($35). One of our perennial favorites, this sauvignon blanc is a stunner. It has grapefruit and lime notes with a rich texture and a kiss of oak. Goes with: chicken, sausages, white fish.
Trimbach Alsace Pinot Blanc 2017 ($15). Trimbach is one of the most venerable producers of Alsace wines and this simple, medium-bodied pinot blanc is why. Unlike common pinot grigios, it is more restrained and refined. It has the same apricot and peach notes, but there is good acidity to make this wine what a pinot blanc should be. Floral aromatics and a dash of mineral. Goes with: Pork and chicken.
Cigar Old Vine Zinfandel 2017 ($20). A little petite sirah, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot give this old-vine zin depth and character. Classic, ripe dark berry flavors with hints of vanilla, mocha and spice.
Journey Chardonnay 2016 ($85). A flagship wine of Matanzas Creek Winery, Journey draws grapes from four blocks of Alexander Mountain Estate vineyards. Elegant in style it has the right amount of acidity and oak to keep the rich peach and pear flavors in check. This is an incredible wine.
Sarah’s Vineyard Santa Clara Valley Chardonnay 2017 ($24). This is a decently priced chardonnay with forward apple and peach flavors with oak-inspired vanilla and coconut notes.