Chillin’ & Grillin’ 

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When it comes to outdoor grilling and barbecues, my guess is that nine out of 10 people probably reach for Bud Light or its equivalent'maybe a Corona. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I’ve enjoyed many a lager with everything from grilled burgers and tubesteaks to fish, chicken and even pizza on the grill.

But wine lovers needn’t check their bottles at the back door. As Chris Schlesinger, author of The Thrill of the Grill and Let the Flames Begin says, “What’s so great about wine is it pairs with anything that you want to throw on the grill. Wine works like a spice, helping to enhance the flavors of your grilled food.” I couldn’t agree more.

My main approach to pairing wines with barbecued, smoked and grilled food is to keep it simple. Don’t overthink the process. If cookouts are about anything, they are about chillin’, so don’t stress over wine choices. Although it might be tempting, this is not the time to fret over perfect wine-and-food matches. You might be serving your wine outside on a hot day in plastic or paper cups, so my recommendation is to save the 50-year-old Bordeaux for another time and place.

At backyard barbecues, I tend to offer one white wine and one red. I rarely spend more than $10 on bottles for barbecue and try to select versatile, all-purpose wines that pair nicely with a range of foods. If I’m cooking fish, I’ll chill a few bottles of Sauvignon Blanc from Chile or New Zealand. With chicken, I mostly reach for the Riesling. But a simple Cotes du Rhone or Beaujolais from France can also be heaven with chicken, steaks and burgers from the grill.

Like I said, I try not to get too picky or specific about pairing wines with particular dishes outside. However, there are a few bulls-eye food and wine matches out there'like a steel fermented, unoaked Chardonnay and grilled corn on the cob. It’s a match made in barbecue heaven. Good choices would be Wishing Tree Unoaked Chardonnay from Australia ($9.95), California’s Callaway Coastal Chardonnay ($5.95) or a new wine I recently enjoyed, Chehalem INOX Chardonnay ($17.95) from Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

An even simpler approach than selecting a red wine and a white wine to drink and serve to guests at your barbecue, is to offer both in one: Rosé. I think of Rosé wine as the Ozzie Smith of the backyard. It might not have the muscle of Barry Bonds, but it covers all the bases. There’s not much that you could smoke, grill or barbecue that wouldn’t taste great with a simple, chilled Rosé. You can go big with a luscious Chateau D’Aqueria Tavel ($17.95) from Provençe or maybe Robert Sinsky’s California Vin Gris ($17.70). But there are plenty of yummy Rosés priced at under $10 which would be killer on a hot day by the barbecue pit. Among them: Tortoise Creek ($8.95), Marques Caceres ($5.60), Snoqualmie Cirque du Rosé ($7.95) and Perrin Reserve Rosé ($9.95).

SIPS: The Cottonwood Market Street Grill has announced a spring series of wine dinners beginning with Spring Fling on April 12 at 7 p.m. The Spring Fling menu at Market Street Grill includes, according to Gastronomy’s wine diva Wendy Caron, “fresh new wines” to accompany dishes like asparagus soup (Good luck with that pairing!), Florida snapper “en papillote” and baked New Zealand Green mussels. The price for Market Street Grill’s wine dinners is $40, plus an additional $20 for optional wine pairings. Phone 947-0542 for more information and reservations.

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More by Ted Scheffler

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