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Here's to the Grill


Whether you use gas, charcoal, or wood, grilling food is one of summertimes greatest pleasures and can be greatly enhanced by the wine you pick to drink with your food.  The charred flavor and slightly crusty texture that goes with grilling makes your food very wine-compatible.

There are several red wines that go well with grilled meats. For example, a thick grilled steak begs for a wine with  lots of structure, rich tannins, and saturated, berried fruit, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz/Syrah, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, or a Pinotage from South Africa.

California Cabernet Sauvignon is a well-known companion for steak. It’s big, fruit forward flavors and muscular tannins are a great match for grilled meat. The fat in the meat works to mellow the tannins.  By seasoning the steak with cracked black peppercorns, you can bring out the spicy peppery flavor in an Australian Shiraz, or a Cotes du Rhone which, by the way, also goes well with grilled lamb or duck.  As far as Petite Sirah, don’t be fooled by the name, there is nothing “petite” about it. This wine’s massive structure and rustic, earthy flavor make it great with steak. Zinfandel’s simple, jammy fruitiness offers a wonderful juxtaposition to the smoky char of grilled food. Pinotage, a cross between Pinot Noir and Cincault, with its classic sweet berry flavors, strong tannins and a long finish make it another great pairing with grilled steak.

Grilled fish, especially salmon, and Oregon Pinot Noir is a marriage made in wine heaven. The rich fattiness and char of the grilled salmon has no better partner than a Pinot Noir. Its high acidity and low tannins don’t interfere with the delicate flavor of the fish. Wines that are high in tannin such as cabernet sauvignon and some of the big Italian reds like barolo often make fish taste dry or metallic so avoid them with your grilled fish. Grilled salmon also goes well with just about any California Chardonnay, or a white Burgundy wine like Puligny-Montrachet. The full-bodied style of these chardonnays with their creamy oak and vanilla flavors pairs well with fattier, oilier fish such as salmon, Chilean sea bass or tuna or bluefish. Another  wine to pair with grilled fish is a Viognier from California or Australia.  The tropical fruit and floral notes in these wines are a nice contrast to the grilled flavor of fish and the creaminess of these wines works well with the richer fish like those mentioned above.

For grilled vegetables a Sauvignon Blanc would work nicely.  Try a clean, crisp Sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, or a Sancerre or Pouilly-Fume from the Loire Valley in France.   A Pinot Gris from Oregon would be a hit as well.

Not as common, but certainly not be be overlooked, is grilled fruit.  We’ve grilled pineapples and peaches and with a scoop of vanilla ice cream makes for a wonderful and easy dessert.  Pair this with a late harvest Gewurztraminer such as Duck Walk Aphrodite from Long Island or Nederberg’s Late Harvest Riesling. A Muscat is also a great choice.

Recipes for your summer BBQ's:

Grilled Steak with Red Wine Sauce and Cabernet Sauvignon

Grilled Herbed Shrimp with Mango Salsa and Chardonnay

Grilled Citrus Chicken and Sauvignon Blanc

Asian Glazed Grilled Salmon on a Bed of Parmesean Couscous and Pinot Noir

Strawberry Spinach Salad

Salad with Carmelized Onions and Roasted

Mango Salsa


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