The Mrs. and I pretended to be on vacation recently and dined at the Phantom Horse Grill at Pointe South Mountain Resort. It’s a little summertime game we like to play when we don’t have time to jet to San Diego.
We began the sojourn with a glass of pinot grigio and watched the airplanes glide into Sky Harbor, but halfway through snacking on a rack of nicely smoked pork ribs, I felt something was awry. We needed a big, zesty red wine to complement the entree. Fortunately, the wine list included dark and luscious Sixth Sense Syrah from California’s Michael David Winery. That would do the trick.
And that’s the thing with barbecue — you can pair it with wine. Just because you have a slab of smoldering grilled meat in front of you doesn’t mean you’re relegated to beer or cocktails come dinnertime. Even at home, I always consider what works best with a dish, regardless of preconceived ideas.
In fact, some of our backyard favorites are best paired with wine. Consider the humble cheeseburger with a plump merlot. Good call. Make your burger even more exotic by adding mushrooms and blue cheese and pair it with a slightly more tannic cabernet sauvignon. Now you’ve just turned a modest hamburger into something extraordinary.
Same goes for grilled, marinated chicken, fish, barbecued ribs or pork chops, spicy sausages and, of course, steaks. There are great pairings for each of these. How about serving a rich California or Australian chardonnay with the grilled chicken? Nice. Or an energetic sauvignon blanc or Spanish rosé with fish? For oilier fish like salmon, try a domestic pinot noir or a gamay-based wine from France.
Grilled sausages and shiraz/syrah or a burly zinfandel were made for each other. Same goes for pork and pinot noir, or a juicy rib-eye and a California cab. We’ve even served a rosé with hot dogs and our neighbors loved it. So much more refined and flavorful than a Bud Light. So this weekend, dry-dock the cans of Coors and reach for one of the aforementioned wines, and take your own vacation from the ordinary. Here are a few bottles and pairings to get you started.
Three Blind Moose 2006 Chardonnay, Lodi, Calif. A great example of domestic winemakers rebelling against over-oaked chardonnay. Fermentation and maturation took place in stainless steel tanks, which preserves the rich, round texture and fruit. The wine is refreshing and slightly spicy, just like the tuna steaks you’re grilling to go with it. $10.
Le Rosé de Mouton Cadet 2006, France. A classically silky and refined Bordeaux rosé made up of merlot, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon grapes. The dark pink hue is full of red fruit flavors, particularly raspberry and cherry. Several pairing options work here, including chicken satay or shish kebabs or grilled salmon or prawns. $9.
Souverain 2005 Alexander Valley Merlot, Sonoma, Calif. Remember that burger scenario I mentioned earlier? Here’s a candidate for a pairing. Vibrant core red fruit balances nicely with the soft, round tannins, creating a lush and juicy experience. Put a thick cut of Swiss on your hamburger and pour a glass of this. $19.
Wyndham Estate Bin 555 Shiraz 2004, Southeastern Australia. The quintessential barbecue wine. The palate is rich and full-bodied with powerful black fruit flavor and some spice, yet still has some of that classic shiraz softness I admire. Lamb, steaks, ribs, sausages, you name it. This wine was made for grilled meat. Affordable, too, at $10.
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