I promise to get to white wines for grilling in a future post, but today I'm bringing you five suggestions for what to drink with red meat on the grill. After all, we are hosting a Grilling Hotline on Monday and Tuesday. Whether you're making a lean filet or a marbled ribeye, cooking to rare or all the way to well done, choosing beef or lamb, or using rubs or marinades, this can be your guide to stocking the red wine side of the rack at under $20 a pop.
- BURGERS OR STEAK WELL DONE = Ravenswood Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel 2008: Ravenswood’s motto “No Wimpy Wines” bums me out a little, because given my love of a nice Moscato d’Asti, I think I like wimpy wines. That said, their big brawny wines tend to be awfully fun to drink with burgers, and this blend of 77% Zinfandel and 23% Petit Sirah is no exception. The rich fruitiness of the wine stands up to the panoply of flavors on a fully-loaded burger, and lends a little juiciness to a steak that’s cooked all the way through. Expect a lot of cooked plum, red currant, dark cherry, and brambly berry along with the spicy tobacco notes typical of Zinfandel, with just enough acidity to keep all that in balance. Bonus: I’ve seen it at Costco for $10! ($13 SRP, 14.5% abv)
- LEAN STEAK OR GRASSFED BEEF = Masi Tupungato Passo Doble 2009: The Italian wine producer Masi went down to Argentina and planted the Venetian grape Corvina alongside the local favorite Malbec to create this unique blend that’s a fine match for grassfed beef or a cut like filet mignon. Leaner meat is an ideal foil for the wine’s plum and dark cherry fruit, soft tannins (aggressive tannins need fat to tame them), and savory herbal notes. You’ll be geeked to know that the Corvina, which is 30% of the blend, is semi-dried as in the ripasso technique used back in Venice, lending rich flavor concentration despite the medium body. ($14.99 SRP, 13.98% abv)
- MARBLED AND MEDIUM TO RARE STEAK = Louis M. Martini Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2008: The eternal pairing of California Cabernet Sauvignon and a big, fat, thick steak is still around because it works and just about everyone can find a decent bottle at their local wine source. If you’re cooking up ribeye, strip, or similar and you’re stopping at medium or sooner, you’ll find a good match in this classic bottle showing ripe blackberry, herbs, mocha, cedar, medium tannins, and just a little smidge of leather (think Megan Fox, not Cher). Produced by Gallo, the world's largest wine company, it’s a good value for the price. ($17 SRP - but $11.99 online, 13.9% abv)
- LAMB = Les Deux Rives Corbières Rouge 2009: If you haven’t eaten grilled lamb, you are missing out on one of the tastiest meat treats to ever grace the coals. Just ask the entire nation of Greece if you don’t believe me! This bottle’s a blend of 40% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 20% Mourvedre, and 10% Carignan, as people are wont to make down in the south of France, and it’d be the right thing to put on the table next to kebabs or chops. Those grapes and the terroir of Corbières almost inevitably add up to a deeply flavorful, fruity, earthy wine that’ll be tagged “rustic,” and this medium-bodied example is filled with dark berry fruit, peppery spice, savory herbs, bright acid, moderate tannins, and maybe even a little hint of black tea on the finish. ( $11 SRP, 12.5% abv)
- CARNE ASADA = Bodegas Caro Domaines Barons De Rothschild (Lafite) / Nicolas Catena Aruma Malbec 2010: Applying any strongly flavored marinade or rub to your grilled meats is a potential game changer when it comes to pairing, but don’t despair and reach for the beer. Just as savory herbs on the meat can lead you to a wine with some herbal notes (like the Corbières above), spicy and tangy notes like you find in carne asada can work perfectly with a fruity, acidic wine like Malbec. This particular bottle has all the dark berry fruit and high acidity you can expect from a well-made Mendoza wine. ($16 SRP, 14.5% abv)
"On the Bottle" is a column about wine and spirits appearing every Friday on the Martha Stewart Living Radio blog. Email your boozy questions and wine quandries to email@example.com and they'll be answered in a future post.