It is hard to believe with all the cold, wet weather we've been having that Memorial Day week-end is only a few days away. By then we should be seeing sunny skies again. And with sunny skies on a holiday week-end, cook outs are sure to happen.
If you are planning a holiday cook out, and are wondering what wines to serve, that will depend on what you put on your grill. With the traditional, all-American hamburger, nothing goes better than America's grape, Zinfandel. Originally from Croatia, grown under the name, Crljenak Kastelanski, and also grown in southern Italy where it is known as Primativo, Zinfandel has taken the US as its adopted home where it thrives in the warm, sunny vineyards of California.
A term you will often see on Zinfandel bottles is 'Old vine.” While there is no legal definition for the term, it is a good indication that the grapes are from long established vines, usually 30 years old or more. The older the vine, the less fruit it produces. The low yields create more intensely flavored grapes.
Good Zins are plentiful and readily available. Boegar Winery in El Dorado County makes a Zinfandel that is well balanced with loads of flavor from oak and licorice to earth and sage. It has chewy tannins and a medium body.
Pedroncelli out of Dry Creek makes a Zin that is full bodied with powerful tannins. The flavors are dark cherry, chocolate, café latté, vanilla, earth and cinnamon. With a long finish, there is a lot going on with the Pedroncelli Zinfandel.
Seghesio makes their Zinfandel with grapes from Alexander Valley. It is a rich wine with dense flavors of dark fruit and spice, full-bodied and well structured.
Graton Ridge in Russian River has flavors of cherry, vanilla, oak and spice. It is a big bodied wine with very smooth tannins.
Ravenswood makes many Zinfandels, but their Big River out of Alexander Valley is really stunning with flavors of vanilla, pepper, cherry, cardamom, cedar, dark chocolate and rosemary. It is a full-bodied wine with smooth tannins. The flavors of fruit and wood are beautifully integrated to create a substantial and complex Zinfandel.
If brats are on your Memorial Day menu, nothing pairs better with German food than German wine. Germany's best and noble grape is Riesling, known for its crisp acidity and light body with rich flavors of lemon, orchard fruits and sometimes a honey finish. The tell-tale aroma of Riesling is petrol. The best Rieslings come from cool climates. It is that cool weather that gives the grape its fantastic acidity.
Rudi Wiest from the Mosel makes a QbA level Riesling with aromas of pears and lemon. It is light, crisp, and slightly off-dry. The acidity of Riesling makes it very food friendly.
Also, from the Mosel is Dr. Heidemann's. It is a rich, creamy Riesling with flavors of vanilla and pear, but with an underlying crisp acidic structure that goes so well with German sausages.
Rheingau's Rieslings are generally more full-bodied than Mosel's. Balthasar Ress from the Rheingau makes some beautiful Rieslings that are buttery and rich with crisp lemon-apple aromas and a honeyed finish.
From the US, Chateau St. Michelle out of Washington State makes a well-balanced smooth, crisp Riesling with aromas of orchard fruit and lemon. Many grilled foods can be enhanced when paired with the right wine.
For the traditional Memorial Day fare, Zinfandels go really well with grilled red meat and Riesling goes beautifully with grilled pork. Salud! And enjoy your week-end!