End-of-summer patio parties call for tossing steaks onto coals. And choosing the right wines for such fare seems simple enough—dark reds to go with grilled meats.
But no one eats just steak at these parties. Patio shindigs start with chips and dips, nuts, crackers, cheese, and olives, plus finger food (bruschetta, lahvosh sandwiches), dips (hummus, carrots, guacamole, cherry tomatoes, broccoli), coleslaw, and maybe even caviar.
Sounds like the best match here is iced beer. Domestic brews can be fine, but for such diverse flavors, I prefer more interesting beers, such as IPAs, session brews, and dozens of craft versions, all of which are more fun than simple American lagers.
And there are many imports that can be exciting, not to mention dry ciders and several other new beverages that have come on the scene within the last few years.
But this is a wine column. And with all of the above foods to accompany barbecued offerings, the best wine to choose, for me at least, has to be pink.
Rosé is not only a festive wine, but it’s better than it has ever been. And nothing particularly expensive works well.
I do love drier versions, but when you’re sitting next to the barbecue pit complete with its smoke invading your nose, you’re not going to be picking up subtleties in your beverage. So make it simple and tasty.
Most grilled foods represent casual dining. As such, I always seek a dry or off-dry rosé. There are literally dozens of wines in this category, many from Spain and the south of France, but California also does a wide variety of pink wines.
One of the most widely available is the 2020 Pedroncelli Dry Rosé of Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley (about $14), which is always a tasty and fruity rosé with strawberry notes. Also widely available (about $15) is the dry Bonterra Rosé, a blend of six grapes including the aromatic grenache.
Neither of these two excellent choices is particularly dry. Both have a certain richness in the mouth and are fine served very cold.
One important bit of advice regarding all rosés: select only younger versions. Once you get back to 2018 or even earlier, the flavors have already been compromised by a little too much oxygen.
It’s too soon for the 2021 California pink wines to be released, but those that have arrived from the southern hemisphere, such as from Chile, Argentina, New Zealand, and Australia, can be delightful.
At this point, the best rosé wines from California are from 2020, with a few 2019’s still satisfactory to consume.
If you’re looking for a top-quality pink wine with excellent fruit, my favorite grapes are pinot noir and grenache. Occasionally, Sangiovese can deliver a superb pink wine as well. One of the best of those is from Barnard Griffin in Washington state (the 2020 wine is $14), slightly sweeter than many.
Good quality pink wines can be served pretty cold without losing much of their character. Those from the south of France (especially Provence) can often be found in the $8 to $11 price range and are perfectly delightful.
One final beer suggestion. Never consume a fine beer from the container in which it came. People who do that are avoiding the aroma of the beer, which, if it is any good, is one of the reasons you buy it. My suggestion: Use a traditional tulip-shaped wine glass for a decent beer to allow it to open up.
Also, when served too cold, most brews become mute. Cool is better than ice cold.
Wine of the Week
2020 Carol Shelton Rendezvous Dry Rosé, Mendocino County ($19): It’s a little more expensive than most, but it is one of the best in California, made from Carignane grapes. It offers phenomenal ripe cherry and strawberry aromas with a hint of watermelon.