Wines To Complement July 4 Barbecues
Fourth of July again is upon us, and I am looking forward to many weekend festivities. The summer weather has been beautiful, and I can guarantee that the grill will be used this weekend. The combination of a celebration with good weather simply begs for us to get outdoors.
So what wines would be good for warm days and cooking on the grill? Well, I’m glad I asked.
When it is warm, nothing can quench my wine thirst better than a really good Sauvignon Blanc. I personally do not enjoy Sauvignon Blanc that has any new wood influence in it. That vanilla and butter mask the intrinsic Sauvignon characters that I hold dear. It also makes the wine heavier. But, for me, Sauvignon should be “green.” There should be grassiness in it, lots of citrus notes of the lemon, lime and grapefruit character. I enjoy some of the tropical fruit in it like guava and pineapple, but not too much. It also should have some hint of minerality. You can count on Sauvignon Blanc having a zesty acidity, which is perfect not only for the warm weather, but also for pairing with lots of different food.
I tend to gravitate toward Old World Sauvignon Blanc.
New Zealand certainly has some great examples, as well. But this is our Independence Day weekend and California has some beautiful examples of Sauvignon Blanc. The 2011 Alta Maria Sauvignon Blanc from Santa Maria Valley ($17) is exactly one of those. Santa Maria Valley is known for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay production, as well as being one of the coolest wine-growing regions in California. That plays perfectly into growing Sauvignon Blanc, as well. This one has all that beautiful zesty fruit, with a rarely found minerality in Californian Sauvignon Blanc, and the flavor is lengthy and persistent on the finish. Another simply delicious example is the 2012 Ancient Peaks Sauvignon Blanc ($13) from Paso Robles. This is 100 percent from the Margarita Vineyard, and it still has all that citrusy fruit, but also adds some plump peachy notes and floral components.
Both of these will make great pairings with light salads, oysters, mussels and shrimp. If you are brave enough to steam some fresh crab legs and clean them with your fingers, these Sauvignon Blancs act like a squeeze of lemon — simply scrumptious!
Now, for us men, the grill is a sacred place where we claim dominion, especially when other men are around. But men, whatever you are grilling, please do not overcook it. Whenever you grill, there will be smoke, and that aroma and flavor permeate the food. In my own household, I can guarantee beef will be on the grill in some form or another, and for me, as much as I love Pinot Noir, July 4 is not the day for Pinot Noir. When I think of that beautiful ribeye steak on the grill, I think of Cabernet Sauvignon. Yes, that noble grape variety that grows so well in Napa, Alexander, Knights and Columbia valleys, as well as Walla Walla. Most people only think of Napa Valley, and rightfully so, but the U.S. has so much more to offer.
Take, for instance, 14 Hands Cabernet Sauvignon ($12) from Washington State. This inexpensive Cabernet totally over-delivers with gobs of blackberry fruit flavor, currants, spices, vanilla, milk chocolate and a smooth texture — a really great value. And if you want to splurge a bit, you must find the 2011 Force Majeure Cabernet Sauvignon ($69). This small boutique producer in Washington State uses fruit from Red Mountain for its stunning reds. The Cabernet is every bit the equal to Napa Valley’s best. It explodes with perfectly ripe red and black berries, oozing on the palate with fruit, coating it with flavor and plush velvety tannin. With grilled meat, this wine is a sneak peek into heaven’s treats.
Whatever you do this weekend, have fun and be safe.
Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier.