What To Drink Now: Wines to Sip With Barbecue – Part 1

No matter what is on your grill this summer a bottle of ideally paired wine is easy to find. Whether your favorite grilling delicacies include salmon or shrimp, pork or chicken, lamb, beef or venison, even simply dressed and lightly charred veggies are ideal summertime fare when paired with smoky, spicy, sometimes fruit forward wines. A good guide though is that reds will likely go better with any kind of barbecue, from veggies to hearty, well smoked brisket or sauce slathered ribs as the richer flavor profile of the wine will pair better with the smoky grilled flavors. Here is the first post with a few suggestions for lighter grilled proteins, like chicken, fish and veggies, some selections were sent for editorial consideration.  Suggestions for the heartier proteins will be up next week – don’t worry, it will still be 100+ degrees outside, perfect for keeping the heat out of the house and on the grill instead.

anna-de-codorniu-roseI will begin the way I usually start my night, whether it is grill night or not, and that is with a chilled glass of bubbly or white wine, so I opt to enjoy this while waiting for the barbecue to cook.  A great everyday go to bubbly is Anna de Codorniu Brut Rose Cava. A blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay (not the common grapes for Spain) this bubbly is filled with fresh rose, juicy apple and ripe strawberry aromas with layers of strawberry, cherry and a touch of creaminess from aging on the lees. Fresh, easy drinking and very approachable, a great aperitif, showing that every day is a day to open a bottle of sparkling wine, even if it just to sip while everything else is cooking.

For grilled salmon, shrimp or lobster turn to a fruit forward California Pinot Noir or light Italian wines like Barbera d’ Asti, and don’t be afraid to chill these wines slightly before serving.

siduri pisoniSiduri is always a favorite, as owners Adam and Dianna Lee continue to source stellar Pinot Noir from some of the finest vineyards throughout California and Oregon. Their Pisoni Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir is a perfect example – lush and juicy, yet balanced, restrained and refined with good acidity, making it an ideal for pairing with food.

The Sonoma Coast benefits from cool, maritime breezes that constantly blow through temperamental Pinot Noir vineyards, helping rid off disease by keeping the grapes dry and cool. Patz & Hall Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir leaps from the glass with juicy aromas of bright strawberry, cranberry and pomegranate, highlighting the ability for fruit to mature in the warm days and cool nights of the region.

I recently tried Biltmore Russian River Pinot Noir Reserve with grilled salmon with a smoky, sweet barbecue sauce at Sevy’s Grill.  Russian River is such ideal land for growing distinct and very fresh Pinot Noir, this one filled with juicy red berry, a touch of cola and vanilla, and finishing with notes of toasted spice and oak, making it an ideal pair with the dish.

Piedmonte is known for their King of the red grapes, Barolo, but also from this area is a lighter, fruit forward and refined Barbera d’ Asti, known for its balanced acidity and juicy character, making it perfect for food pairing. One of my favorites is from Ricossa, filled with jammy notes of ripe raspberry, dark cherry, mocha and a touch of smoky tobacco.

Another lighter Italian variety from the Piedmonte area is Dolcetto.  Though best known in its native region winemaker outside of Italy are also making some impressive wine with this grape.  Duchman Family Winery, based in Driftwood, TX has recently introduced their 2011 Dolcetto.  I haven’t had a chance to try the new release yet, but I have tried previous ones and it is an ideal pairing for lighter fare as they tend to not have a huge amount of acidty and moderate tannin levels, and is delicious with just a bit of chill on it.


For grilled chicken, chicken wings, pork tenderloin, spicy Spanish sausage, or even some hearty grilled veggies like mushrooms or eggplant, Spanish Tempranillo or Italian Montepulciano will help bring out the earthiness of the proteins or veggies without overpowering them with its tart and juicy berry and plum notes, especially if just lightly marinated in lemon, olive oil and herbs or lightly brushed with a not super sweet sauce.

conde-de-valdemar-2008 Conde de Valdemar D.O. Ca. Rioja Crianza aged 15 months in American oak, enhancing the vanilla and spice notes of this red cherry, ripe red raspberry and plum filled, 100% estate grown wine. Perfect for pairing with grilled pork, grilled chicken, even saffron filled paella with grilled chorizo, shrimp and chicken.

2008 Viña Pomal Rioja Reserva, produced by the historic Bodegas Bilbaínas established in 1953 in Spain’s Rioja DOCa known for producing only single vineyard wines, or every wine produced comes from a specific vineyard on their estate without blending any fruit from other parts of their expansive estate. This ensures true character and expression of terroir in every bottle. Viña Pomal is not only the name Bodegas Bilbaínas most prestigious wines, it is also the name of the vineyard, this one aged 18 months in American oak producing a slightly spicy, oak and vanilla enhanced wine bursting with fresh berry and cherry flavors.

Pairing 2008 La Valentina Spelt Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo with grilled and roasted wild mushroom risotto proved why pairing regional cuisine with wines is so ideal. Earthy, forest floor notes marry with ripe red cherry, currant and espresso notes with a touch of balsamic and spice for an elegant and balanced wine with personality.

masseria-li-veli-Li Veli Primonero, from Puglia in the southern part of Italy, blends predominantly Negroamaro (85%) with Primitivo (15%).  The fruit forward,  and floral profile of the Negroamaro blends nicely with Primotivo (very similar to Zinfandel without as much spice,) for a fresh, cherry, blackberry and plum filled wine with touches of wild flowers.  Bold without overpowering, fresh and vibrant, and a moderate alcohol level of 13.5%, good for pairing with food.