The grill glows with heat as you slide on half a dozen brats and burgers with a sizzle. But before you reach into the fridge to grab a couple of longnecks, you must consider the ultimate accompaniment — wine, of course.
No comparison, in my mind: Food and wine have paired together since Caesar and Cleopatra, and the Saturday barbecue is no different.
It’s all those blasted Miller Lite commercials during Diamondbacks games that have us brainwashed. What the actor really wants is a glass of cab with his hamburger, not a miniature beer. Try a chilled rosé or shiraz the next time you pull sausages (with grilled onions and peppers) off the grill, and you’ll see my point. Pure joy. Consider a few other favorites. A glass of zinfandel gives added punch to the classic mushroom cheeseburger. And how about the last time you visited a steakhouse? You ordered Mondavi, not Miller, like a reflex. A ripe cab or merlot is the only way to go. How do you explain the 100 wines by the glass at Fleming’s?
And if it’s the heat that’s bothering you, don’t sweat it. Chill a bottle. Go ahead. I’m not going to tell your neighbors. Better still, invite them over to share a meal, and they’ll appreciate that you’ve chilled the wine. It’s hot but they might not expect wine with chicken or lamb kabobs, but after a few bites and sips, they’ll get it. Here are a few recommended bottles to enjoy during your next barbecue.
• Juicy red fruit flavors makes Beringer’s 2001 Napa Valley Merlot ($19) well-suited to grilled meats and vegetables. We love its velvety mouth-feel that comes from 14 months of oaking, and almost want to sip it on its own. Here’s an idea. Have a glass, then bring on a medium-rare hamburger. Nice.
• Riding the popular animal-themed wine trend comes the 2002 cabernet sauvignon from Dog House, a division of California’s Kendall-Jackson. At $9, this bottles packs lots of barbecue-friendly fruit and spice impressions with a firm tannic structure. Small amounts of syrah, cabernet franc and merlot softens the palate and adds nuance. Ideal with steak or ribs.
• Cinnabar’s 2002 Mercury Rising turns up the heat on just about any barbecue. I’ve been a fan of this producer for years, and love its proprietary Bordeaux-style red blend of cab, merlot, cab franc and a smidge of petit verdot. Deep blackberry and bakery impressions with solid structure call for grilled salmon or a rubbed steak. $18.
• Backyard barbecues are not just about red wines, and the new sauvignon blanc from Chateau Souverain proves it. It’s like sunshine in a glass, full of bright, rich citrus flavors, made fuller with the addition of 6 percent chardonnay and light oaking. This Napa producer is a winner and so is this wine. Serve with grilled fish, roasted shellfish or chicken satays. $14.
Escaping to Payson for a day of hiking or heat relief? Slip a couple of 187 ml single-serving Lindemans Minis into your picnic basket. Sold in four-packs for about $8, choose from the venerable Australian producer’s Bin 65 Chardonnay, Bin 40 Merlot, Bin 50 Shiraz and Bin 45 Cabernet Sauvignon. Cold fried chicken and ham sandwiches will never be the same.