We’re not talking about the insipid pink stuff that grandma used to drink. No, we’re talking about America’s fine wine. It’s a wine that we can truly be proud of. Some are ripe and sexy. Some tip the scales of hedonism with richness and alcohol. Others are broad and stern, in need of a hearty steak to tame their structure. All are packed with fruit and spice with a perfect zing of acidity that begs for food. No matter what your style is, they will all impress you and your guests at the grill.
So, I invite you to read on, to toss your preconceptions to the wind, to put down that Cabernet, Pinot Noir or Merlot, and to start to think (or drink) Zinfandel. You will not regret it.
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Grilled Porterhouse Steak with Paprika-Parmesan Butter
If you know anything about Zinfandel, then you must know something about Ridge Vineyards. Ridge may be most revered for their Bordeaux blend, Monte Bello. However, it’s their stunning selection of single vineyard Zinfandels that stole my heart.
This wine screamed for a steak and I was happy to oblige with one of my favorite cuts off the grill. Grilled Porterhouse Steak with Paprika-Parmesan Butter would do the trick. There’s nothing quite like a Porterhouse steak off the grill and the Ridge Pagani Ranch Zinfandel has all the muscle and intensity to be a perfect contrast.
2009 Ridge Zinfandel Pagani Ranch – The nose was massive, as aromas of wild berries, dry cocoa, vanilla, ginger spice and savory notes filled the senses. On the palate, it was medium- to full-bodied with amazing focus to its intense red berry fruit and spice. The masses of fruit slowly gave way to show this wine’s structure and balance. The finish was long and clinging to the palate, yet ultimately refreshing as the tannins faded away. 93 points
Grilled Sausages with Mixed-Pepper Compote
There are some great values to be found with Zinfandel and this is one of them. This affordable Zin walked the line between flash and finesse.
One of my favorite items off the grill are sausages, so why not take them to the next level? With just a little extra work and a few more ingredients, you can make Grilled Sausages with Mixed-Pepper Compote. Not only will you wow your guests, but you’ll also have a great companion to a glass of Zinfandel. Sweet peppers, grilled onions, Italian sausages and Zinfandel are made for each other.
2009 Old Parcel Zinfandel Lodi Block no. 4 – The nose showed blue and black fruits with herbs, spices and a touch of toasty oak. On the palate, it was juicy with medium body and flavors of plum and ripe cherries. The finish was staying yet fresh. This is a great value. 89 points
Barbecued Texas Beef Brisket
There is nothing like a Barbecued Texas Beef Brisket to spice up your outdoor parties and lull you into a beef-induced state of euphoria. The question for me is always what to pair with it. You need a wine with rich, concentrated fruit to battle the barbecue sauce but one that has enough acidity and structure to hold up to the slow cooked beef. You need a Zinfandel.
Not just any Zinfandel will do; you don’t want a fruit bomb without any structure. This recipe would go great against a number of the bottles we’ve already touched on, but on this night, it was the 2010 Turley Zinfandel Duarte Vineyard that really set this pairing ablaze.
2010 Turley Zinfandel Duarte Vineyard – The nose was intense yet elegant, showing blackberry and raspberry fruits, sweet spices, hints of charred wood and a whiff of vanilla. On the palate, I found intense, concentrated fruit kept in check by a core of streamlined acidity. Red and black fruits seemed to saturate the entire palate with hints of herbs, pepper and pure cocoa. On its own, the finish was slightly drying with palate-coating red fruits but it was perfect with a bite of beef brisket. 92 points
Master Recipe for Barbecuing Chicken
Some foods are often abused on the grill, chicken is one of them. How often have you had a piece of chicken off the grill that was overcooked, with its only redeeming quality being the barbecue sauce it was slathered with? In my opinion, it’s all about controlling the heat of the grill and basting. Of course, a good barbecue sauce can’t hurt. The recipe I found on What’s Cookin’ is a great primer for grilling chicken and Zinfandel goes great with chicken off the grill.
As for the wine, this pairing worked great because of the round, supple flavors of this Dry Creek Zinfandel. We are talking about chicken here, pairing it with a bruiser simply wouldn’t work.
2009 Dashe Cellars Zinfandel (Dry Creek Valley) – The nose was big and rich with blackberry fruits, red candies, herbs and black pepper. On the palate, it was broad and rich with sweet blackberry jam, spice notes and a hint of alcohol. The finish was medium-long with a pure expression of red and black fruits. 90 points
Kansas City Style Barbecued Ribs
If it’s a rich, sumptuous wine that you’re looking for, you can stop right here. The Rosenblum Maggie’s Reserve smelled like a fresh berry tart and was rich on the palate, yet balanced by brisk acidity. The first time I tasted this, I craved ribs. My craving was right on.
Kansas City Style Barbecued Ribs were the perfect pairing. The sweet spice and succulent meat was perfectly offset by the Rosenblum richness and acidity. As for the aromas, I felt like a king as these two giants sat next to each other on the table. Ribs aren’t quick, and the ingredient list is intimidating, but I assure you, it’s worth all the work.
2007 Rosenblum Zinfandel Maggie’s Reserve – The nose was hedonistic with dark spices, graham cracker crust, blueberries, black cherry and a lovely floral note that kept it tied to reality. On the palate, it showed a medium body with sweet and sour cranberry, cherry and cinnamon ushered in by brisk acidity. As spicy and sweet as it seemed, there’s something about this wine that kept me going back for another sip. The finish was leaner than expected with tart red fruits and lingering spice notes. 91 points