BY RICK RIOZZA
As we recall from last week, our discussions found us knee-deep in refreshing sparklers, rosés and white wine suggestions for grilled summer fare. Some of us will never consider consuming red wine in our torrid temperatures; others will indeed have staunch opinions as to what reds will go with ribs, steaks, or burgs.
And we also provided a bit of info on the various temperatures that we’re to serve our whites and bubblies: the general rule is to simply chill them up big time! When it comes to reds, chill them up as well! As in placing them into the fridge a half hour before enjoying them, or, throwing them in the same beer bucket of ice & water for a quick 15 minutes or so.
Let’s remember—just look outside—the summertime in the desert, it’s too darn hot! In this weather, red wines lose their aromas, can seem a bit flabby on the palate, and just aren’t that refreshing generally. And as we discussed last time, spicy barbequed and grilled foods cry out for mouth cooling libations such as beer and chilly cold white wine!
So—our point is: outdoor grilling and dining simply dictates simplicity. The red wines we wish to enjoy should be casual. No one is looking for a contemplative vintage or nuanced wine. We’re looking for that easy red quaffer that we know can highlight a bit of the grilled food we’re having in a laissez-faire mood.
We don’t have to argue much or go on at length as to the delicious quality of a red wine. It’s in your blood, it’s in your heart. No matter the climate, loyal lovers of the red are relishing it. There are two camps: light to medium bodied quaffers who’ll look to Pinot Noir, Grenache, Chianti, Barbera, and the like. And the daring types who still lust over full-bodied bombers of Zinfandels, Syrahs, Petit Sirahs, Cab Sauvs & Francs.
And then there is the Malbec; which can win, place, or show well at any outdoor grilling party.
In most red wine pairing contests, there is always the game of managing and contrasting fruit & body, oak & tannins. Grilling is one thing; but anything coated with BBQ sauce with its smoky, spicy, and typically sweet flavors, I guess, can pose a challenge.
We’ve already thrown out the heavy concerns of match-making. It’s fun to note however that with wood smoky flavors, there’s no need to find an oaky wine: a rich fruity wine works better. As to tannins, in this heat, no worries, unless you’ve got a really fatty (and no doubt tasty) rib-eye steak grilling up. In this case, a nice tannic Cabernet Sauvignon or Petit Sirah will manage that baby perfectly: Ummm…yummy!
You already know the red wine of choice for your meal—enjoy! Below are other wine red considerations:
The classic grilled hamburger/cheeseburger which includes a nice dose of green peppers pairs wonderfully with Cabernet Franc in the mix: a Right-bank Bordeaux, such as a Roques Mauriac ($20), a Chilean Red Blend such as Trio ($10), or a Californian Cab Franc from Titus ($35). I recently enjoyed a delicious South African wine from Mulderbosch, the Faithful Hound ($20). Known famously for their stellar Sauvignon Blanc, this red blend comes in with a few notes of licorice among juicy red berry flavors. Full-bodied and rich, there’s a presence of spice as with medium tannins on the finish.
For those lathering up those beef and pork ribs with full-on flavored sauces, there’s quite a line-up to enjoy. For Father’s Day, you’ll recollect we covered the generous fruit laden wines of California that included Ravage’s 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon and the Dark Red Blend. They are such reasonably priced wines at only around $12 or so. DARK + RICH + DEFIANT, the winemakers claim, “It tempts the taste buds with its dark, decadent flavors and smooth structure to push your sensory limits to the edge.”
Further, you’ll remember as well the Cooper & Thief Red Wine Blend, ($26). It’s that Zinfandel bourbon barrel aged blend with 17% alcohol that will match the boisterous bang of your over-the-top sweet & spicy BBQ sauce. Along with my endorsement of the 2013 Leviathan Red Wine, Napa Valley, ($48), these wines are delicious and daring in the slow hot wind.
And let’s not forget one of our favorite recommendations: 2014 SAVED Red Wine.($20). It’s a robust blend of Merlot, Malbec, Syrah, Zinfandel, and small amounts of other red varietals curated to add more dimension to the aromatics and rich fruit flavors. It opens with aromas of ripe figs and vanilla followed by jammy flavors of blackberries and spice. Its finish is long and generous.
On the medium-bodied side of things, I’m a big fan of the Willamette Valley Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir ($30), with its wonderful perfume, richness of mouthfeel, complexity and balance. And of course another Biodynamic farmed Oregon Pinot Noir is the Maysara Winery’s Jamsheed. Extra ripeness in the vineyard translates to a more generous core of red-black fruits. Blackberry and fresh cracked pepper entwine perfectly with matured and lengthy tannins on the finish. Drinking beautifully now and pairing with grilled meats and salmon.
You know I’m a big Italian wine fan and my current recommendation is the 2014 Tommasi Rafaèl Valpolicella Classico Superiore. It’s a steal at $15! This fresh and bright medium-bodied “valpo” provides aromas of dried spices, leather, and cherry. The flavors are intense with spicy and sweet cherry flavors that are wonderfully balanced with the all-cleansing acidity: the perfect grilling vino!
Even James Suckling gave it 91 points, stating, “A lovely valpo that is delicate and spicy with a lemon-rind and blueberry character; medium body, vibrant fruit and wonderful acidity. Flavorful! Drink now!” Cheers! Everyone!