I’ve seen it too many times - Guy decides to have a barbecue and heads to the store. Guy goes straight to the meat counter and painstakingly selects a combination of meats that he deems worthy. Guy then heads to the produce section and chooses the right veggies for condiments and possibly a secret corn or sweet potato recipe. Then, as if the beverages have no importance at all, Guy grabs a few cases of the first “on sale” display of domestic light beer that he sees.
Wake up guys. Times have changed, and it’s time to be a little more sophisticated with your BBQ beverage companion. There are absolutely manly wines out there that will blow your light beer away in terms of flavor, and guess what? Many of them pair perfectly with grilled and smoked meats, and we’re going to show you how it’s done. Try the following combinations at your next BBQ and thank us later:
- Cheeseburger - The trick to a good cheeseburger isn’t the type of cheese or seasoning, the bun or the condiments - it’s the char. Regardless of how well done the burger is on the inside (Rare to Well-done), it is important to get that nice char on the outside that provides a nice texture and that quintessential grilled flavor. We prefer a charcoal grill for cheeseburgers, as well as the higher fat content of ground chuck (more flavor and more juiciness), but remember to make the patties larger as they will cook down considerably. Like a golf swing, every guy has his own “perfect” version so we won’t try to change your ways, but try pairing your next round of burgers with an Old Vine Zinfandel from California. One that we love? Wine Guerrilla’s 2011 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel - grown on great old vines, this wine has a backbone of smokey and earthy flavors to go along with a lot of oak and fruit.
- Rubbed Ribeye - The manliest of steaks. To find a good ribeye, pay attention to the marbling throughout (see this article for a primer on ribeyes). Ribeyes have arguably the most flavor of any steak due to the beautiful marbling of fat, so we prefer not to marinade and instead use a dry rub about 30 minutes to an hour before grilling. Don’t try to impart more flavor by “marinating” in a rub overnight - most rubs are salt based, and that salt will actually pull the juices out of the meat if left on too long. As with burgers, a good char is key to a good ribeye. Try pairing with a bold, peppery Syrah. While a lot of people think pairing steak with Cabernet is the way to go, Syrah is like Cabernet’s loose-cannon friend who shows up late, looks great, and probably has a random girl on his arm. Syrah is powerful and intense, but also has a dark side. One that we love? Ehret Family 2010 Syrah.
- Pulled Pork from the smoker - There are two keys to creating delicious pulled pork: 1. Cooking temperature has to be low and constant (we prefer 225 degrees Fahrenheit), and 2. Cooking time - we use a meat thermometer, but the temperature you are looking for is about 165 - 170 degrees throughout. Beware, cooking a 5 lb. pork shoulder at 225 degrees can take all day to reach this temperature throughout so be prepared. Try pairing pulled pork with a Sparkling Brut wine. The dryness and high acidity of the Brut (which is dryer than Extra Dry), along with the bubbles should make it a refreshing compliment to the delicious fattiness of the pork and sweetness of the sauce. One we love? McFadden Organic Sparkling Brut.
- Smoked, Cedar-planked Terriyaki Salmon - One of our favorite dishes. Be sure to purchase cedar planks that are marked as “for the grill.” Read: do not take boards out of your coat closet as they may be treated with toxic substances. Soak the boards in cold water for about 30 minutes prior to grilling to assure a good smoke and cook until there is a goldish-brown glaze on the outside. Pair with Pinot Noir or a crisp white blend. The high acid and earthy, mineral notes will go nicely with the succulent, fatty flavors of the salmon and the smoke and earth flavors of the cedar. Ones we love? Sojourn Cellars 2009 Pinot from the Sonoma Coast and the Ground Effect "Gravity Check" White Blend.
- Bacon Wrapped Scallops - Bacon wrapped scallops on the grill are literally akin to grilled candy. We soaked our scallops in a combination of maple syrup, teriyaki, and garlic for an hour or two before grilling. Grill until the bacon is cooked all the way through, and try pairing with a fat, buttery Chardonnay. A big, creamy chardonnay will hold its own in this matchup. One we love? The 2009 La Sorpresa Chardonnay from Charles Creek.
- Wine-Butt Chicken - We invented this recipe, which is a cross between “Beer butt chicken” and Coq-au-vin. Take a whole chicken and stuff it with the typical coq-au-vin ingredients (onions, garlic, celery, etc.). Then take an empty beer can, fill it halfway with Pinot Noir, and put in the the larger opening of the whole, raw chicken. The chicken will look like it is sitting on the beer can. Cover the outside of the chicken with coq-au-vin style seasoning (we used thyme, rosemary, salt, pepper, and paprika), then pour about a cup of Pinot Noir on the rest of the chicken. Put the entire chicken and beer can into a disposable drip pan and then place drip pan and chicken onto the grill. Close grill and bring to a constant temperature of 400 degrees. Cook chicken for 1-1.5 hours. Pair this with an intense California Pinot Noir. One we love? The Monticello 2009 Estate Pinot from Oak Knoll, Napa.
By Scott Washburn, Bob Wilson, and Pooneet Kant