While this week’s weather is doing its best to convince us otherwise, spring is on the way.
But there’s no excuse to leave your grill idle and lonely, even if a thin layer of snow is on the ground. Put your gloves on and get to work. Your friends and family will be grateful for it. They may even buy the booze to go with your dinner. (Let’s be real, this should be the price of admission to enjoy your grill handiwork.)
Syrah/shiraz is undoubtedly one of the best grapes to pair with grilled and smoky meat treats, and it’s easy to find. Usually it’s called shiraz if it’s from Australia, syrah if it’s from the U.S., France, South Africa or Chile. Many syrahs have an inherently meaty aroma, and Precedent syrah is no different.
This wine is a mouthful, but it doesn’t veer into an overripe style. It’s a swirling and structured syrah with notes of cassis, blackberry jam and bacon fat. There’s no hiding it’s full-bodied style, so it’s a shoe-in to pair with big, juicy cuts of meat.
At about $32, this Sonoma Valley syrah is worth the money. But if you’re seeking value while still wanting a glimpse of this style, check out Charles Smith Boom Boom! syrah from Washington state ($16) or Novy syrah out of Napa Valley ($20).
Zinfandels can certainly fit the bill if you want bold flavors but a bit less tannin. Wild Hog Estate is located only a few miles from the Pacific Ocean, where the climate is moderated by the winds and water. This doesn’t sound like the ideal location for a grape like white zinfandel, which is known for high-volume production, but that’s kind of the point.
Wild Hog only has about 1.5 acres of zinfandel vines, which are certified organic. It is a small operation that goes to great lengths to preserve quality and a sense of place in the wine. This zinfandel is all about red fruit and spice: black raspberries, cherry, mulberry and a superseding peppery note. Some zinfandels don’t hide the high level of alcohol very well, and the fruit gets overwhelmed. But Wild Hog zinfandel is one of the best balanced zinfandels I’ve had, in terms of fruit, oak and alcohol.
This wine, which will run you about $34, is proof that zinfandel can be graceful. For quality zinfandels under $25, look for offerings from Easton and Ridge wineries, two perennial favorites.
If hidden gems are your bag, then try this grape on for size: souson. And wow, is this grape hidden.
Thankfully, the bottle has a cute label and a catchy name. The Flower and the Bee souson comes from Ribeiro, a small region tucked away in northwest Spain near the Portuguese border. Coto de Gomariz is the producer. Few wineries grow souson, but this 70-acre estate is dedicated to bottling grapes indigenous to the region.
This souson is opaque and near black in the glass, not too different than syrah. But the fruit profile is a bit more ripe and jammy — less fruit and even bigger tannin. Think raspberry and plum pie and baked cherries. It rests in the middle ground between syrah and zinfandel. If you’re a fan of using hoisin or honey sauces on the grill, this will taste lip-smackingly delicious with your grilled goodies. It should set you back about $20.
If you’re not into reds at all, think pink.
There are hundreds of dry rosés out there, and most provide incredible value for under $15. The first rule of thumb: Younger is better.
Right now, wines from 2013 and 2014 are where it’s at. We’re starting to see some 2015 rosés hit the market from France and Spain. They will once again be a top value, due to the reasonably warm year that Europe experienced and no big weather problems at harvest.
The Lechuza garnacha rosé from 2014 is crisp, fresh and full of effortless fruit that will make you pine for the day when you can crack a few windows and get a breeze going through your house or apartment. At just $13, it still delivers quality. It’s all about the strawberry here, although notes of rhubarb and bing cherry are there. Ultimately, don’t worry about the finer complexities of wine here. This is hot dog wine, all the way. It’s something you can sip while you watch the Detroit Tigers’ opening day from the comfort of your couch.
Justin King is a certified sommelier and co-owner of Bridge Street Social, a restaurant opening this month in DeWitt. His Detroit Tigers prediction: 87-75, wild card.