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Perk Up Your Spirits with a Grilled Steak and the Perfect Wine

Food photo created by KamranAydinov

By Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr

We used to think of “comfort food” as a dish to ward off the chills of winter – stews, soup, hearty pastas. Now, the phrase can be easily applied to warding off the boredom of being trapped indoors by the coronavirus.

If you’re like us, you begin to think about dinner in the morning. As long as the food chain remains intact, you can easily conjure up a decent meal on your morning walk. In fact, we’ve been spending idle time going through old cookbooks in search of recipes we somehow overlooked. They are there!

One of the great meals to perk up the spirits is a grilled steak. With temperatures warming, you can safely emerge from your cocoon to grill. To make the anticipation complete, find a nice wine to match the luxurious feeling a steak brings.

Marrying a wine to a specific meal is often a challenge that can drive people nuts. No doubt too much angst is spent in the process of choosing a wine to go with spaghetti and meatballs, for instance, when it may not matter. While guidelines are important, as we have advised in the past, it comes down to choosing a wine you like. After all, you may not have guests yet.

Beef has various degrees of fat that point you in different directions. A lean cut of beef can be paired with a lighter bodied wine – even syrah and pinot noir. But a fatty cut, such as prime rib, strip, or ribeye, calls for bolder reds. These can include cabernet sauvignon, barolo, merlot, and even some complex zinfandel.

With that in mind, here are some good steak wines:

  • Beaulieu Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($33). In this tantalizing blend, BV goes beyond the traditional Bordeaux varietals with contributions from syrah, petite sirah, touriga nacional and more. The result is layers of aromas and fruit flavors: plum, raspberry, cherry, currants and herbs.

  • Smith-Madrone Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($52). From the Spring Lake district, this thick and delicious cabernet is ready to drink. Complex aromas of spice, lavender and violets, there are oodles of bright plum and blueberry flavors with a dash of oak and olives that are classic in this region.

  • Chateau Odilon Haut-Medoc 2015 ($35). Black fruit character with a hint of licorice and vanilla. Soft tannins and good acidity. It is 85 percent merlot with the rest made up of cabernet sauvignon. Property is part of the Baron Benjamin de Rothschild portfolio.

  • Chateau Pardis Casseuil Entre-Deux-Mers 2017 ($27). Merlot makes up 70 percent of this blend with cabernet sauvignon filling in the rest. Despite a challenging year, the producer has managed to make a decent wine with dark fruit character. Owned by Domaines Barons de Rothschild.

  • Le Dix of Los Vascos Chile 2015 ($64). Opulent with rich and complex raspberry and cherry flavors. Complex wine made from 80-year-old vines. Long in the finish.

  • Chateau d’Aussieres Corbieres 2016 ($38). This wine from Languedoc-Roussillon has dark fruit aromas with a touch of hint and opulent cherry and raspberry flavors. Cuvee includes syrah, grenache, mourvedre and carignan.

  • CARO 2016 ($65). A partnership between Domaines Barons de Rothschild and the Catena family, this label has been uniting French and Argentine cultures since 1999. A blend of malbec and cabernet sauvignon, it has medium body, good complexity and elegant berry fruit flavors with a dose of vanilla and smoky oak.

  • Ladera Reserve Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($115). There is nothing like a mountain-grown cabernet to match a luxurious steak. This is to wine what Kobe is to beef. The additional14 months of age in the bottle before release gave the wine time to evolve into a concentrated, rich expression with plum and blackberry flavors.

  • The Prisoner Napa Valley Red Wine 2017 ($49). If you like fruit-driven wines influenced primarily by zinfandel, it doesn’t get any better than this exotic blend. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but its popularity even at this price is undeniable. Raspberry and cherry notes laced generously with vanilla and chocolate flavors.

  • Amici Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($50). This beautifully textured and dense cabernet sauvignon gets additional layers from the malbec, merlot, petite verdot and cabernet franc that makes up the Bordeaux-like blend. Ripe blackberry and plum flavors with hints of cassis and vanilla. This is a fabulous wine that exceeds its price tag.

  • Double Lariat Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($50). Using grapes from the superb Howell Mountain, Rutherford and Atlas Peak AVAs, winemaker Linda Trotta has crafted a dense and structured cabernet sauvignon with dark fruit and cassis flavors and complexity.

  • Aia Vecchia Sor Ugo Bolgheri Superiore 2017 ($40). This is a round, rich Bordeaux-like blend of cabernet sauvignon (57 percent), merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot. Dark fruit flavors with hints of licorice, cassis and coffee. Floral and rosemary aromas. Delicious!

  • Saldo California Zinfandel 2017 ($32). Made by the makers of The Prisoner, this zinfandel is blended with syrah and petite sirah to give it a broad palate of dark fruit and hints of licorice and pepper on the nose.

Wine Picks

  • Maggy Hawk Edmeades Vineyard White Pinot Noir2018 ($50). Tony Rynders, now free of his lawsuit with a former employer, is back making a white pinot noir under a different label. Not surprisingly, it’s a stunner. Unusual but not unique, a white pinot noir simply quickly removes the juice from the skin to strip the pinot noir of its more common red color. The texutre is the same, but this wine has loads of aromas, balance and bright fruit character. SPRING WINE?

  • La Pincoya Red Blend Chile 2018 ($20). This is a good deal for what you get from this smooth and delicious blend of cabernet sauvignon, carmenere and syrah. Cherry flavors abound.

  • FEL Anderson Valley Chardonnay 2018 ($32). Bright apple and citrus notes with balanced acidity and long finish.

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