Memorial Day is the first day many of us think about barbecuing. Diehards might grill year-round and there are those who live in southern climes where one balmy day is like the next. However, for those who cover their grills during the winter, that is the weekend to fire them up.
Perhaps many of you are planning a gathering of friends or family with ribs, hamburgers or chicken on the menu. If you have a large crowd, you probably will be keeping the food simple to prepare and easy to eat. Hamburgers, brisket, sausage and chicken are perfect. If it’s a small group, you can consider steak, fish or rotisserie chicken.
Similarly, the wines should not only complement the food but be priced according to the size of the crowd. There are a lot of inexpensive zinfandels, but not so many inexpensive pinot noirs, for instance.
Also consider the sauce you are planning to put on the meat. Any sweet, ketchup or tomato-based sauce calls for zinfandel or syrah. These wines are simple but fruity. Zinfandel, though, is high in alcohol — something to consider if you’re pouring it by the liter.
Foods that have herb or seasoned rubs are best matched with sauvignon blanc. Creamy fish sauces call for chardonnay or a host of white alternative wines from Spain and Italy.
Remember, Memorial Day is meant to honor those men and women who have given their lives to their country. Pay your respects to their sacrifice with a moment of silence or a toast in their honor. Our democracy prevails because of them.
Here are 12 great wines for grilled meat dishes:
Cline Eight Spur Dry Creek valley Zinfandel 2020 ($36). Pure zinfandel, this delicious wine has raspberry and plum notes and a big enough body to go with any meat dish. Pairs with steak, pizza, burgers.
Mount Lange Ghiran Billi Billi Shiraz 2021 ($15). Australian shiraz — or syrah as it is known elsewhere — is a perfect complement to barbecue sauces. The smokey, sweet flavor of a ketchup-based sauce matches well with the abundant, sweet fruit character of this variety. This wine is medium body, simple and full of red and dark berry flavors. Pairs with ribs, burgers.
J. Lohr Tower Road Petite Sirah 2020 ($35). Petite sirah is a perfect foil to anything with a smoky flavor. It is big enough to handle steak, yet fruity enough to pair well with sweet sauces. A little malbec, grenache blanc and viognier go into the blend. Generous floral aromas and flavors of bright cherry, cranberry and plum. Pairs with brisket, steak, chicken.
Lucy Gamay Noir 2022 ($30). The Pisoni family has an exciting series of wines that are mutations of the pinot noir grape. This gamay noir is grown in the Santa Lucia Highlands. It offers bright but very fruity raspberry and black cherry notes with a hint of lavender and spice. Very forward and yummy, it would complement tomato-based sauces for grilled foods. Pairs with burgers, pork loin, duck, chicken.
Silverado Mt. George Vineyard Merlot 2019 ($65). You can pit this luxurious wine with beef, thanks to its body and depth. Pomegranate, red cherry flavors mingle with a bit of spice. Forward and silky. Pairs with steak, brisket.
Sebastiani North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon 2021 ($14). This is an excellent value in cabernet sauvignon. Ample varietal aromas of plum and blackberry with jammy blackberry flavors, earthy notes and a hint of mineral. Easy drinking. Pairs with burgers, chicken, ribs.
Rombauer Zinfandel California 2020 ($38). This is a throwback zinfandel to the 1990s, one of our favorite times for heady zinfandels. Packing almost 16% alcohol, this delicious zinfandel presents classic black raspberry notes and mocha in a mouth-filling package that surprisingly is not out of balance. Pairs with burgers, steak.
Benziger Family Merlot 2020 ($20). From a pioneer in biodynamic, sustainable and organic farming, this merlot has black cherry and plum notes with nice spice and vanilla nuances. Good value. Pairs with burgers, sausage, brisket.
Unanime Signature Malbec Mascota Vineyards Argentina 2018 ($40). This bountiful red wine spent 14 months in French oak developing the integrated plum and berry elements with cedar accents. Soft tannins make a very agreeable package. Pairs with beef kababs, filets, brisket.
Monteci Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2019 ($22). An organically made wine from the classic grapes corvina, rondinella, and molinara. Grape notes with an accent of dried cherries in a very smooth presentation. Very easy to drink and match with red-sauced Italian dishes. Pairs with ribs, burgers, pizza.
Yalumba Shiraz Barossa 2018 ($28). A throwback to the classic, fruit forward shiraz of yesteryear. Black raspberry and ripe cherry notes in a bold fruit forward agreeable style. Very, very good. Pairs with burgers, ribs.
Charles Krug Generations Napa Valley 2018 ($85). OK, we had to save one expensive wine to go with that tomahawk steak. This is a powerful Napa Valley red wine blend crafted from the classic Bordeaux red grapes. Aged in new French oak barrels this bold but harmonious wine exhibits cassis and cherry flavors. Pairs with steak.
Bouchaine Estate Chardonnay 2019 ($36). The source for this delicious chardonnay is the southern border of Napa Valley’s Carneros district. It benefits from the fog and wind of the San Francisco Bay. Apple aromas with a dash of orange zest gives way to nectarine and apricot flavors.
Benziger Family Winery West Rows Chardonnay 2021 ($37). Nice apple and peach notes with a creamy finish.
Ritual Casablanca Valley Chardonnay 2019 ($21). We don’t think of Chile when it comes to chardonnay, but maybe we will start after tasting this one. Grapefruit, lemon and tangerine notes abound. Good value.
Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr have been writing a weekly, syndicated wine column since 1985. See their blog at moreaboutwine.com. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.