Food & Drink

Ready to barbecue? Stock up on red wines

The Memorial Day holiday is coming up this weekend … really. For many, it’s the unofficial start of barbecuing season, although, if you’re like me, you’ve probably jumped the gun and have been cooking outdoors on the grill for weeks.

No matter what your time frame, having a good selection of red wines on hand to pair with your barbecued and grilled foods is a must.

Red wines make good pairing partners because many of them complement the smoky, charred quality that meats and vegetables pick up after they’ve been on the grill. Malbec, cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, syrah, and petite syrah are all good examples of red wines to consider, and even such mid-range varietals as tempranillo, grenache, cabernet franc, and sangiovese can go well with grilled food.

My only note of caution is to go easy on sauces and spices in your cooking. If used to excess, they can drown out the flavors of your wine.

Here are several red wines I’ve enjoyed as of late that are worth a try:

From Chile’s Colchagua Valley, the Montes Alpha Dry Farmed 2012 Carmenère and 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon (about $18 to $24 each) were produced from grapes grown using a farming method with virtually no irrigation. That decreases water use by up to 65 percent and results in smaller grapes with more of a dense, concentrated flavor profile.

The Montes Carmenère is outstanding, with a whiff of white pepper to begin, ultra-dark blueberry and black currant flavors, and a spritz of pepper and dried herbs on an elegant finish. The Montes Cabernet displays more red plum and cherry fruits and a bit more grippy tannins. Both should pair nicely with steak, lamb or pork.

The Tenuta Frescobaldi di Castiglioni 2011 (about $25) is a cabernet sauvignon-based red blended with merlot, cabernet franc, and sangiovese. Bright fruits of red currant, pie cherry, and field berries lead off, with a slightly spicy finish and firm tannins. Try it with grilled vegetables basted in butter, roast chicken, or pork tenderloin.

From Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills Appellation, the Double Canyon 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (about $25) is a must-try red. Big blackberry and dark cherry flavors fill the glass, with a dusting of baking spice for starters. As the wine progresses, brighter red fruits come through on the finish with a trailing note of licorice root and black pepper. Excellent!

Sourced from Yakima Valley grapes, the Palencia Wine Company 2012 Casa Amarilla GSM (about $36) is a 60/30/10 combination of grenache, syrah, and mourvedre. The grenache shines through with its vibrant red cherry flavors; then there’s just the right balance of tannic structure and a bit of spicy smokiness on the finish. Perfect with barbeque pork or beef brisket.

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