Photo: alisdair, Flickr
Here are seven wines that are perfect for sipping at a cook-out. You might want to think about chilling the reds for a bit. This won't ruin the flavor profile but it will be more refreshing while you're baking in the sun.
2008 Kendall-Jackson Vineyard Estates Vintner's Reserve Pinot Noir, California ($18)
Pinot and salmon is a classic pairing and that doesn't change when the fish is grilled. A cedar aroma kicks off this Pinot, which is anything but mellow and has an undercurrent of cola flavors that dance with the wild-raspberry fruit notes. Although light in body -- which we like on hot days -- there is still enough spicy flavor that provides wiggle room to encrust spices on top of your salmon. (Because we wouldn't want you to forego any additional flavors, of course.)
2006 St. Francis Winery & Vineyards Sonoma County (California) Cabernet Sauvignon ($22)
If you normally think that Northern California Cabs are too tight and have too many tannins (for your taste), then turn your attention to this one, where there is a rich mouth feel and smooth tannins on the finish. A trace of smoke emerges at the end of the palate and abundant blackberry, black currant and cassis flavors, as well as plum, produce a brightness that would pair well with most any grilled meat. What's interesting about this wine is that the grapes are sourced from five Sonoma County appellations: Sonoma Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley and Rockpile.
2008 Viu Manent Winery Carmenère, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($9)
If you're a fan of traditional, spicy barbecue sauce spiked with all sorts of flavor, then try your favorite grilled meat - with that sauce - and then take a sip of this Carmenère. Beginning with the nose, there is a subtle black-tea flavor that we fell in love with; it later evolves into waves of dark-cherry notes that culminate in a tart bite on the finish.
2009 Dashe Cellars Riesling, McFadden Farms, Potter Valley, North Coast, California ($21)
You might be surprised to learn that Riesling pairs with grilled foods. Hear us out. Because of its deep, sultry body, and the high sugar content, it's a great match. Especially with sauces that have a tropical flair. There's effervescence on the front of palate, and overall it's very balanced and approachable. Instead of syrup-y sweet - like a German Riesling might be - this one is dry, but bright with orange peel and honeysuckle blossoms. It has a long, smooth finish.
2007 Paul Dolan Vineyards Zinfandel, Mendocino County, California ($25)
Just about any Zinfandel goes with grilled foods but we like this one because it's on the lighter side - more appropriate for hot weather. It's also made with organically grown grapes. There's a savory quality to this wine, which you get in the cinnamon and herbal notes, yet it's sweetly balanced with orange-marmalade notes. Complex, peppery and approachable, and a superb fit for a barbecue.
2008 Tikal Amorio Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina ($30)
Immediately after the first sip we thought that this would be an awesome wine to drink with grilled meats, maybe pork, chewy beef or steak - even lamb. Its high bottle price could serve as a good excuse to purchase higher quality meats than you normally might. The smokiness and earthiness throughout this Malbec echoes the reason we love cooking out on the grill: it's a good excuse to be outdoors. This is a "meaty" wine (pun intended) with lots of bold cherry notes and some blackberry flavor too. The finish lingers and is very, very soft, almost sultry.
2009 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Rosé, Napa, California ($19)
Rosé is a great pick if you want to drink something chilled and refreshing with your cook-out fare. This is one of the best Rosés we have drunk in a while; it contains 95% Grenache grapes with the remaining 5% Viognier grapes. On the drier side, it's a pale-pink hue in the glass and has an elegant structure. With a caramelized finish that lingers, and strawberry notes on the palate that are spiked with fresh lime, this is a very complex Rosé. It would be an excellent choice for sipping with grilled, light fish.