In Food & Wine Magazine, Ray Isle talks with wine writer Jordan Mackay about what wine goes best with BBQ. “With smoke, the best pairing is a wine with rich fruit,” says Jordan.
Jordan is co-author of Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto, written with renowned pitmaster Aaron Franklin, of Austin’s wildly popular Franklin Barbecue. Grilled meat lovers queue up outside the restaurant at 8:00 AM to wait at least three hours for “the best barbecue in the known universe.” The restaurant, originally housed in a trailer, has sold out of brisket every day since it opened in 2009!
With the fourth of July less than a week away, you may be hoping that friends and family will be lining up at your grill (hopefully not for four hours though!) to get a taste of their favorite barbecued items like burgers, hot dogs, barbecued chicken, and steak.
Along with the ice-cold beer, and white and rosé wines that are de rigueur at any summertime gathering, make sure to have plenty of full-fruited red wines on hand. While whites and rosés can be loaded with fruit flavors, the richest, most robust wines are red. In my experience, a well-made, full-bodied red can transform juicy barbecued meat into a heavenly experience.
Consider the following seven red wines, all made in the USA, to help celebrate this most American of holidays.
Hedges Family Estate La Haute Cuvée 2015. ( $55) This Washington State winery, located in the renowned Red Mountain AVA, is demeter-certified Biodynamic, and, as such, no herbicides, pesticides or synthetic fungicides are used to farm the land.
La Haute Cuvée, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, is juicy and fruit-forward with beautifully soft tannins and a bright acidity reminiscent of a fine Bordeaux. I recommend decanting the wine a couple of hours before serving. It’s an excellent choice for grilled lamb chops or steak.
Tip: buy a few bottles (at least!) of this amazing wine to serve at future Fourth of July celebrations.
Gramercy Cellars Lower East Syrah 2015. ($30) Another winner from Washington State, this highly rated Syrah is from the Columbia Valley appellation. A great value for the money, the 2012 vintage was given a score of 92 by the Wine Spectator. Owner/winemaker Greg Harrington (also a Master Sommelier) launched the winery in 2005, sourcing grapes from top vineyards.
The Lower East Syrah is a fresh and inviting wine with bright red fruit flavors and subtle spice and herb notes. Perfect with BBQ chicken!
Ramey Wine Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014. ($62) This award-winning winery, located in Healdsburg, Sonoma, has been producing critically acclaimed wines ever since David and his wife Carla founded it in 1996. “Our style combines the harmony produced by traditional Bordelaise winemaking techniques,” says David, “with the voluptuousness gained from California’s weather.”
This blend (80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 6% Malbec and 3% Petit Verdot), from top vineyard sites in Napa, features dark berry flavors with notes of cassis, mocha, and minerals. Antonio Galloni, on his wine website Vinous, raves about Ramey’s Cabernet: “Dark cherry, plum, smoke, tobacco, licorice, and new leather flesh out in an impeccably balanced, mid-weight Cabernet Sauvignon, long on class and personality. Once again, David Ramey has produced a jewel of a wine.”
Beckmen Vineyards PMV Grenache Block Eight 2017. ($50). Based in the Santa Ynez Valley of Santa Barbara County, Beckmen Vineyards, family owned and operated, is considered one of North America's best producers of Rhône varietal wines.
This Grenache, made from grapes grown in the certified-biodynamic Purisima Mountain Vineyard, has a big, rich-fruited palate with soft and silky tannins. Great with any of your spicier grilled items!
Thomas George Estates Baker Ridge Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2012. ($65). Founded in Sonoma County in 2008, Thomas George Estates Winery is an artisan producer of small lot, vineyard designated wines with a focus on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Baker Ridge, one of their most coveted vineyards, is known for producing Pinot Noirs that are extremely aromatic — think freshly picked summer strawberries — with a complex mix of pomegranate, cranberry, blueberry, and earth flavors. The wine has such a cool, bright energy that, after each sip, you will be craving another taste.
In Food & Wine, Jordan Mackay says that the right Pinot Noir can be great with both brisket and ribs. This is that kind of Pinot Noir! It would also be perfect with richer types of grilled fish like salmon, tuna, and swordfish. This wine is so delicious, I would be happy to have it with just about any type of food!
Pedernales Cellars Bingham Vineyards Reserve 2016 ($50 at Pedernalescellars.com). Texas wines are still finding their way in the world and here’s one that steps up to the plate and delivers. Pedernales Cellars, a family-owned, boutique winery in the Texas Hill Country, focuses on handcrafted, small-lot wines, mostly made from Spanish and Rhône varietals.
The 2016 Bingham Reserve is a 90% Tempranillo blend with 7% Petit Verdot and 3% Mourvedre. The wine has a beautiful, deep ruby color and is a lovely, pure expression of Texan Tempranillo. A ‘must-try’ —perfect with spice-rubbed, barbecued chicken and pork.
Noisy Water Winery Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($48 on Noisywaterwinery.com). Have you had a wine from New Mexico yet? If not, this one is a great place to start. Noisy Water is located in Ruidoso, New Mexico, and named after the Rio Ruidoso, the “noisy river” that runs through it. Owner/winemaker Jasper Riddle, who took over the winery from his parents in 2010, is showing that New Mexico can make world-class wine.
The Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon has won medals at every competition it has been entered in and the 2016 (now, sadly, sold out) was awarded 92 points by James Suckling.
This wine, made from Old Vine Cabernet Sauvignon, is from a vineyard planted in New Mexico in the 1980's. It delivers aromas of dark red fruits and spice, and has a succulent, silky-textured, mouth filling plushness. Sounds like a rich-fruited, ‘best for BBQ’ wine to me!