Just because I sold my charcoal grill in a garage sale doesn’t mean I believe everyone has to forgo this Fourth of July tradition. If there is one thing that unites Americans across all political lines, from sea to shining sea, it’s that barbecuing is A-OK. (Isn’t a propane tank kind of like the Prius of grills?)
The old standard with burgers and ribs is zinfandel. With its lavish berry fruit and heightened spice, it indeed goes well with meat and, more importantly, hickory sauce. Syrah, another grape that offers fruit and spice, is a great substitute when a zinfandel is not on hand. So is grenache, the most widely planted red wine grape in the world.
But barbecuing isn’t always about throwing a slab of meat on the grill. Depending on what you’re grilling, white wines or rosé might actually be the way to go. Nothing is as good with corn on the cob as a well-balanced but buttery chardonnay. I kid you not — sauvignon blanc-semillon blends are great with grilled shrimp. Rosé and grilled summer squash or red peppers are a beautiful thing.
For those having a vegetarian or fish grill, or those who just don’t feel like drinking red wine, here are a few wines to enjoy during the holiday:
The Ojai Vineyard Rosé, 2007 (California): In the 15 years since I was first introduced to The Ojai Vineyard’s wines, I’ve never been disappointed in any one I sampled, be it a single vineyard pinot noir or a simple rosé. Made from grenache, mourvedre, syrah and sauvignon blanc, this exceptionally charming wine has lively acidity, bright strawberry fruit and hibiscus flavors. Suggested retail: $15
Chateau Rollat Semillon, 2007 (Walla Walla Valley, Washington): Chateau Rollat’s wines are really good across the board; this may be the most intriguing white wine from the United States I’ve tasted so far this year. Christian LeSummer of Latour and Domaines des Baron Rothchilds fame consults, and the Bordeaux influence is duly noted, even in this white wine. Semillon shares some of sauvignon blanc’s grassy character; that is the case here. Yet this also has beeswax and vanilla, without seeming heavy or cloying. Suggested retail: $25
De Tierra Vineyards Chardonnay, Monterey Estate, 2006 (Monterey, California): Nestled between Carmel Valley and the Santa Lucia Highlands, De Tierra has a pretty cool microclimate that allows grapes to retain good acidity. This chardonnay goes through 100 percent malolactic fermentation, which contributes to its buttery character. At the same time, the acid keeps it in check texturally, giving it a nice, fresh mouth feel. Suggested retail: $25