As spring blends into summer, barbecue season is officially open. For us, this means months of opening moderately priced wines to go with what we're cooking on the grill.
What do we look for in wines for eating on the back deck? This week, we'll focus on reds that will pair with the T-bones, flank steaks and rib-eyes that will be sizzling on our grills alongside portabello mushrooms, corn on the cob and kabobs.
How you prepare your meats - marinades, rubs, etc. - can ultimately affect which wines will pair best. But in general, we look for reds that are robust and fairly priced.
That means Syrahs, Cabs, Merlots and blends under $20, a price point that might make you blink but won't generally make you think more than twice.
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We want sturdy wines that will stand up to the rich flavors of the meats.
If you want to incorporate wine into your grilling, consider a simple red wine marinade.
Combine a half-cup of red wine, a quarter-cup of olive oil, a tablespoon each of balsamic vinegar and lemon juice, a dash of oregano, ground cumin, salt and pepper and a clove or two of minced garlic. Depending on your tastes, add fresh rosemary or ginger. Mix the ingredients together in a large Ziploc bag, add your steak, and put in the fridge for at least four hours.
Turn the bag every hour or so. If you want, use the marinade to baste the steak while grilling.
Here are a few red wines that we will be drinking all summer long by our grills.
W.B. Bridgman Cellars 2010 Syrah, Columbia Valley, $15: The fascinating perfume leads with boysenberry, Marionberry and some plumminess, followed closely by lime peel, ginger root, cardamom and hints of fresh-baked pfeffernsse cookie. On the palate, it's plush with more purple fruit, accompanied by mouthwatering acidity.
McKinley Springs Winery 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, $18: Fresh-fruit aromas of plums and pomegranate pick up notes of red pepper flakes, moist clay and light toast. Inside is a delicious presentation of blackberry jam, red currant and cherry pie filling. There's plenty of tannin, followed by notes of licorice and fennel.
Covey Run Winery 2010 Merlot, Columbia Valley, $9: One of Washington's top value wineries produces an expressive, food-friendly Tuesday night Merlot. It opens with spicy red currant aromas, backed by Marionberry, blueberry, cracked black pepper, minerality and fresh dill. Boysenberry and Marionberry flavors swirl through with some chalkiness and black tea tones.
Gamache Vintners 2009 Boulder Red, Columbia Valley, $18: This blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Malbec and Merlot opens with aromas of Marionberries, boysenberries and sweet pipe tobacco, followed by flavors of blackberries and Aussie black licorice. It's a smooth entry, and the midpalate is backed with moderate tannins.
Wind Rose Cellars 2010 Dolcetto, Columbia Valley, $18: This Italian variety includes Barbera and Tempranillo. It opens with aromas of poached plums, blueberries and cedar, followed by flavors of pomegranates, fresh cranberries and blueberries, all backed with a rush of acidity and a long, easy-drinking finish.
Maryhill Winery 2009 Zinfandel, Columbia Valley, $17: Brown sugar, black currant, strawberry leaf, buttered toast and a pinch of sand begin to describe the aromatics. The flavor profile carries bright red fruit akin to raspberry, dark strawberry and cherry as a wealth of acidity arrives. There's good control of alcohol and some milk chocolate in the finish.
Laissez Faire 2010 Red Table Wine, Snake River Valley, $17: This second label for Cinder Wines is a blend of Sangiovese, Mourvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo. It is filled with black currant, boysenberry and sour cherry notes, accented by hints of malted milk balls, black pepper and reduced tannins. Look for this online and at the Boise Co-op.
*Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman run Great Northwest Wine, a website that provides news and information about the wines of Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Idaho.