Chances are that last year you weren’t planning a July 4th gathering with friends in the back yard. So, with the pandemic mostly in the rearview mirror, let’s make this holiday one to remember. Fire up that grill or smoker.
There’s nothing like a rack of smoking ribs or a sizzling steak to provoke the palate. The aromatic smoke that wafts from a charcoal grill stimulates the appetite for the gaggle of friends or family who eagerly await the work of a master griller. Some grillers will be getting up early in the morning to smoke a brisket – a process that can take up to 14 hours – or pork butt. Others will be satisfied to grill hamburgers or fish after guests arrive. Whatever your choice, let’s not forget the wine.
Barbecued foods are generally well seasoned with rubs and slathers. Many times, there is a ketchup-based sauce on the side for fare like ribs and pulled pork. If that’s the case, you will want to marry the meat with a fruity wine, such as zinfandel or syrah. Zinfandel is an all-American grape variety and thus a perfect fit for Independence Day.
Zinfandel ranges in flavor profiles from the complex to the jammy. Expect to find these wines loaded with juicy dark fruit, but beware the high alcohol content that comes from very ripe grapes grown in the warm regions of California. Sharing a half bottle of zinfandel will impact you more than any other red wine.
If fish is your choice, then you have many options. If your preparation includes herbs, turn to sauvignon blanc or vermentino. These perky wines have good acidity with herbal and citrus character. A light red, such as pinot noir, works with salmon and tuna. Chardonnay is always a good fit if the fish has a cream sauce or is delicate.
We love to grill large portobellos – a great entrée for a vegetarian – doused in a reduce balsamic vinegar and topped with parmesan. Mushroom’s texture and flavor beg for pinot noir.
Burgers presents a wide range of possibilities: light Italian reds, Spanish tempranillo, merlot, malbec French Cotes-du-Rhone or other syrah/grenache blends. California blends work well here too.
Steak’s density and fat calls for cabernet sauvignon from your choice of regions. We love to pull out California cabernet sauvignon on this American holiday.
Here are some choices to consider:
7 Deadly Zinfandel 2018 ($16). Both the 7 Deadly Zin and the 7 Deadly Cabernet Sauvignon are full-bodied and bold for serious grilled meat. We like the zinfandel for barbecued foods because its jammy berry character pairs well with sauces. There are lots of blackberry and spice notes herel.
Dutcher Crossing Brothers Reserve Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2017 ($40). Named for the brothers of winemaker Debra Mathy who she so reveres, this spirited zinfandel is a great match to grilled meat – ribs, burgers and even beef. Plum, raspberry and blackberry notes abound.
Attis Lias Finas Albarino Rias Baixas 2019 ($20). It seems that more Spanish albarinos are migrating from the biting citrusy acidity that used to dominate many examples that we tasted. We’re finding more albarinos from Rias Baixas are leaning to peach and pear notes and toned-down acidity which is more to our liking. This offering is a good example of this new style with peach and citrus notes as well as a creamy mid-palate.
District 7 Estate Grown Chardonnay 2018 ($18). Apple and pear notes dominate this oaky chardonnay from Monterey County.
Volver Tempranillo 2018 ($16). Made entirely from tempranillo grown on goblet-trained vines in a high-altitude single vineyard, this wine from La Mancha has licorice, blackberry, cassis and currant notes. Rich and tasty. It would be delicious with ribs, burgers and pulled pork.
Duckhorn Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2020 ($32). Exotic tropical and peach flavors follow a generous spread of pineapple and melon aromas. The 16 percent of semillon in the blend broadens the array of flavors and adds a smooth texture.
Amalaya Malbec Salta Argentina 2018 ($16). This has that classic rusticity that is associated with so many tasty malbecs from Argentina. Deep berry notes flavor and scent this value oriented red wine. Perfect for pairing with another Argentinian export — beef.
Colome Autentico Malbec Salta Argentina 2018 ($30). The Colome malbec has a riper smoother berry fruit expression and some licorice notes, and a bolder impression in the mouth. Although a bit more money it makes up the difference in price with elegance and complexity.
Blackbird Vineyard Napa Valley Arise Proprietary Red Wine 2017 ($40). We thoroughly enjoyed this plush, velvety blend of merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot. Plum and cherry notes with a hint of mocha and tobacco. Long in the finish and just a pleasure to sip.
Other wine picks:
Newton Napa Valley Unfiltered Chardonnay 2018 ($55). Classic in style, this premium Chardonnay is complex and rich in texture. Grapefruit notes abound.
- Sunny With A Chance of Flowers Chardonnay 2019 ($17). If you are on a diet and still want to enjoy a glass of wine, you may enjoy this pinot with only 9 percent alcohol. It computes to about 85 calories of a 5-ounce serving – no sugar is added. Don’t expect a complex, oak-driven wine, but it has varietal flavors. The producer also makes a pinot noir and sauvignon blanc.
- Surrau “Surrau” Rosso Isola dei Nuraghi IGT 2019 ($27). From the first vineyards planted in the Surrau Valley of Sardinia, this wine is a tantalizing blend of carignano, cannonau and muristellu grapes. They may not be familiar to you, but that’s all the more reason to try this unusual wine made in a mix of large Slavonia oak casks, stainless steel tanks and cement vats.