One of my favorite activities on Memorial Day is to clean off and fire up the grill. I’ve had a long and happy relationship with grilling. Grilling doesn’t require a lot of thought. It’s a forgiving method of cooking. Similarly, pairing wine with grilled foods is a forgiving task. Most grilled dishes are relatively simple; there’s a main ingredient (usually a protein of some kind), plus the possibility of various seasonings in the form of marinades, rubs and sauces. To choose a wine to pair with something off the grill, consider two things: First, how hearty is the food, and second, what’s the dominant flavor? For lighter foods—white-fleshed fish, vegetables, chicken breasts—pick a lighter wine. For heartier foods—sausages, burgers, steaks—choose a more robust wine. (Both reds and whites can be light-, medium- or full-bodied.)
Now think about flavor. For steaks and butterflyed legs of lamb—even if they’re marinated beforehand—the dominant flavor will almost always be the meat itself. But with foods like chicken slathered in barbecue sauce or shrimp with a fiery vinaigrette, the sauce or seasoning is by far the main flavor of the dish. The dominant flavor is a key thing to consider when selecting a wine. Here are some suggestions for matching wines and foods from the grill. Unlike most everything else that Americans like to drink, such as milk and beer, wine is high in acidity, which refreshes the palate; most reds have fat-cutting tannins, too. In fact, wine may be the most versatile food partner there is, except perhaps for water. But when it comes to a big, juicy, grilled steak, who on earth wants to have it with water? Some whites and Roses include the following: 2015 Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($15); a wonderful balance of brash lime, herb and tropical flavors. .2014 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Colombia Valley Riesling ($19); light-bodied and filled with bright apple, lime and orange tones. 2014 Terras Gauda Abadia de San Campio Rias Baixas Albariño ($17); this wonderful Spanish white has citrusy flavors with a little sea-salt. Albarino is increasing in popularity in the US as its exposure increases. It has been a staple in Southern Europe for many years.
Some red wines include 2013 Genesis Columbia Valley Syrah ($18) This spicy, fragrant Syrah has a particularly firm structure that goes well with grilled meats. 2014 Layer Cake California Cabernet Sauvignon ($14); aging in oak barrels gives this red’s luscious blackberry flavors a gentle cedar note. 2012 Masi Campofiorin Veronese ($15); in the secondary fermentation they use partially dried grapes which adds a good deal of richness to the wine. 2014 Edmeades Mendocino County Zinfandel ($15); Ben Salazar the winemaker is one of the Mendocino county Zin masters. He adds some Petite Sirah for color and body and some Syrah to extend the flavor. This Zin is called berry-driven by the critics. I call it good.
Experiment around with your grilling activities and your favorite wines and you will come up with some good combinations. Email me some of your favorites so we can share them with you neighbors. You will glad you did.
In our quest to find new great Happy Hours around the area, we stumbled upon Dante’s Restaurant & Bar at 7365 Main Street in Stratford – great wine list and wonderful staff. Owner Matt Neely has transformed a tired old family restaurant into one of the sharpest restaurants around.
Ray Spaziani is the Chapter Director of the New Haven Chapter of the American Wine Society. He teaches wine appreciation classes at the Milford Board of Education, Gateway Community College, and is a member of the International Tasting Panel of Amenti Del Vino and Wine Maker Magazine. He is an award winning home wine maker. Email Ray with your wine questions and wine events at Realestatepro1000@gmail.com.