Aaah, Memorial Day -- one of my all-time favorite holidays. The enticing aroma of steaks and burgers on the grill, the bright colors of my favorite tomato avocado and mozzarella salad and the juicy sweetness of fresh melon and strawberries. Too many wines -- too little time to try them all. What a dilemma!
For classic burgers and steaks, grab a bottle of your favorite Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah or Tempranillo and sip the night away. All of these have the body and texture to compliment grilled red meat of any type. One of my favorites is Condado de Oriza Crianza Ribera del Duero from Spain ($13). It has the intensity of Cabernet and the silky finish of Merlot for half of what you'd pay for a California wine.
Then there's the seafood: fresh scallops, lobster, tuna and salmon. Yum! Sauvignon Blanc, Gruner Veltliner, Rosé and Chardonnay are perfect for these summertime delectables. A good rule of thumb when pairing white wines with summer's lighter fare is that the sauce/seasoning is equally important, if not more so, than the main ingredient. Sweet wines pair well with spicy foods, while crisp, dry varieties are a nice compliment to sweeter flavors. Richer wines stand up to fleshier fishes and sauces, such as salmon or tuna in a beurre blanc. Grab some fresh sea scallops or lobster and a bottle of Green Meadow Russian River Chardonnay ($16) and you're in business. The rich, buttery texture of both the wine and the lobster make for a decadent pairing.
A staple of many backyard barbeques this summer will be tender, fall-off-the-bone ribs. The rich, blackberry fruit and slight peppery character of California Zinfandel, Piedmontese Barbera, and Aussie Shiraz are the perfect companions to the sweet molasses of home-style barbeque sauce. For lots of flavor and a rich finish, Kimberly River Zinfandel is my favorite bottle under $15. A smoky, dry-rubbed rack of ribs will bring out the best in leaner, spicier reds, such as Cotes du Rhone and Nero D'Avola from Sicily. Check out Domaine Lafond Cotes du Rhone ($12) for a great value that over-delivers on intensity and fruit.
For grilled veggies and chicken, I simply love a Pinot Noir or Cabernet Franc. These soft, refreshing reds cleanse the palate and won't weigh you down. I happen to adore Korta Cabernet Franc from Chile ($9) and Michel Lelu Bourgogne Pinot Noir ($15) for these lighter preparations.
With so many fantastic options to choose from, summer is the perfect time to branch out and experiment with new wines. So, fire up the grill and enjoy the fruits of your labor while taking that first delicious sip. Happy tasting!