I was out with friends recently and said I loved to open a bottle of zinfandel when I grill in the summer. They guffawed, thinking I was joking.
I told them that wine isn’t just for hoity-toity restaurants with white tablecloths. It’s a regular part of the meal on my dinner table, whether I’m having scallops or bratwurst.
There are plenty of great wines to drink with summer foods, the kind that don’t require hours of prep time and long stints in the oven. And they don’t have to be white.
Anything light, such as pinot noir or Chianti, can be enjoyable on a hot day with some sausage, cheese, and veggies and dip — an ideal summer meal for me, because it involves no cooking at all.
Don’t forget rosé — not necessarily white zinfandel, though. France has always been home to wonderful foodfriendly dry rosés. If you’re still mad about their attitude, Pedroncelli out of California has a pretty good rosé for about $11 that’s perfect with nearly everything, including pasta salad, antipasto, crackers and cheese — you name it.
More often than not, though, we grill outside, then bring the food inside where it’s air-conditioned to eat it. That means anything goes.
So don’t skip over the hearty cabernet sauvignon when you’re stocking up for summer. It’s the ultimate match for a grilled ribeye or tenderloin. Raymond Reserve cabernet out of Napa is always a favorite, and the 1999 release didn’t disappoint, with its cherry, currant and earth flavors ($30).
Other grilled meats call for a red blend. Callaghan’s Buena Suerte Cuvee 2000 ($25), made right here in Arizona, is outstanding with a teriyaki-marinated flank steak. The new release of Bonny Doon’s Big House Red ($10) is perfect with brats and kraut.
And you can’t beat a good zinfandel or shiraz with a slab of ribs and sweet, smoky barbecue sauce. Try Lindemans Reserve shiraz 2001 ($11), an Australian fruit bomb, or Karly Buck’s Ten Point zinfandel from California ($20), with subtle spice, a hint of earthiness and nice berry flavors.
Even if you’re just flipping burgers, try wine in lieu of beer. Karly zin is also excellent with green chili-topped burgers, as I found out at Roaring Fork during happy hour. See the box for more burger pairings, and ask your local wine merchant for recommendations.
Burgers and Beaujolais?
Wine isn’t just for fancy French restaurants. Try it at your next backyard barbecue. The good folks at Wineanswers.com developed a handy chart of the best types of wine to drink with various hamburger toppings:
• Lettuce, tomato, raw red onion, ketchup: Australian shiraz or California syrah
• Pickled relish and yellow mustard: White zinfandel
• Grilled pineapple: Fruity chardonnay or Beaujolais
• Grilled white onions and sauteed mushrooms with Swiss cheese: Chianti or California sangiovese
• Chili cheese burger: American red zinfandel
• Black pepper, Gorgonzola and hot mustard: Cabernet sauvignon
• Avocado, cucumber and sprouts: Sauvignon blanc or merlot
For more ideas on food and wine pairing, go to