Is there an official start to the outdoor grilling season?
For some people, it usually coincides with Memorial Day weekend. For others, the first day to hit 70 degrees or so seems about right.
Or, if you're like me, you've already had the grill going for several weeks.
Whatever your time frame, remember to have wines available to complement the food on your grill. Before I give you a few recommendations, here are some grilling suggestions to help enhance your culinary experience.
- Try to work around the combination of briquettes and charcoal lighter. If you have to continually saturate those briquettes with fluid to keep them going, that chemical-like "flavor" will permeate your food. Pairing a wine with something that tastes like lighter fluid? It's a no-win task.
- Don't overdo seasonings and barbeque sauces. Too much of those can drown out the flavors of your wine. The rule of thumb: gently seasoning and basting, good; saturating, not so good. When in doubt, serve some sauce on the side with the finished food, try it with the wine, and then add more sauce if you like.
- Don't over-grill. This is a classic problem, especially with delicate fish entrées that need only minimal cooking time. Like too much sauce, too much char on the food can mask the flavors of a potential wine-pairing partner.
To get you started (or keep you going) this grilling season, here are a few wine and food combinations to consider.
San Juan Vineyards 2013 Chardonnay (about $14) - This is the winery's first effort with an unoaked chardonnay, and it really delivers at an unbeatable price. Delicious, crisp green melon, Fuji apple and citrusy flavors lead off, while a bit of a nutty, almond-like quality rounds out the finish. Try it with grilled corn on the cob with plenty of butter and perhaps a squeeze of lime juice.
Lazy River Vineyard 2009 Pinot Noir (about $40) - From Oregon's Yamhill Carlton District, this exquisite pinot is worth every penny and should pair beautifully with grilled salmon or slow-roasted pork. Fragrant cherry and floral aromatics, flavors of strawberry and black cherry, and just enough of a textured, smoky trailing note, add up to a truly elegant wine. Available locally at Purple Smile Wines and Seifert and Jones Wine Merchants.
Double Canyon 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon (about $40) - Sourced from the vineyard of the same name in Washington's Horse Heaven Hills Appellation, this outstanding cab features woodsy, herbal aromas, intensely dark flavors of blackberry, currant and licorice, and a finish of sweet walnut meats. Complex, layered and bold, it promises to pair up nicely with a big, juicy steak.
Dan Radil is a wine enthusiast who lives in Bellingham. Reach him at danthewineguy.com.