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Wines for grilling and chilling

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Grilled steaks, ribs, chicken, prawns, kabobs, burgers, bratwurst, veggies - with apologies to Julie Andrews - are a few of my favorite things.

It’s music to my ears to hear that ignited gas “poof” as my reliable Weber bursts to life and comes up to temperature, hot enough to lay searing black streaks across a fat New York strip.

With daily local temps in the triple-digits, it just makes sense to keep the heat outside. By the pool. Where everyone hangs out anyway.

The “pop” of a wine cork usually is not far behind. What else would you serve with that steak and veggies? Beer is too filling; martinis too strong in the heat. They would have to peel you off the cool deck.

No, vino is the way to go. Here are a few recent discoveries that are ideal for grilling and chilling. All are widely available at local retailers like Total Wine, Bevmo, AJ's Fine Foods, and large grocers like Fry's Food Stores, Safeway and Basha's. Cheers!

• Hoopla “The Mutt” 2011 Red Blend, Napa, Calif. Contrary to its name, this wine is not the runt of the litter. Inspired by the winery’s beloved rescue dogs, the Cab-Merlot-Petite Sirah fruit comes from the famed regions of Yountville, Oakville and St. Helena and delivers a high-end Napa experience without the sticker shock. There’s only one option here: Beef. $16.

• Goldwater 2011 Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand. Don’t let the screw cap fool you, this stuff is excellent and a Pinot that even Miles from “Sideways” would approve of. From a land best known from stellar Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, too, thrives in Kiwi country. This one is packed with rich, round black cherries and floral nuances. I’m seeing a double-cut pork chop or baby back ribs in this wine’s future. $26.

• Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Colchagua Valley, Chile. I’ve seen this brand more and more since the recession, maybe because it’s a solid value play. Only now, I think people drink it because it’s just plain good - and goes well with food. Grown in the “Napa Valley of Chile” from French rootstock, the wine shows intense red fruit impressions with underlying herbs like thyme and bay leaf. Lightly chill and serve with burgers and brats. $14.

• Wente Vineyards Morning Fog Chardonnay 2012, Livermore, Calif. Man can’t live on reds alone. Or can he? All I know is that I love this blonde bombshell from “California’s First Family of Chardonnay.” The heavy fog banks of Northern California create the ideal climate for this special white variety, and winemaker Karl Wente knows exactly what to do with them. He ferments half the wine in oak and the rest in stainless steel which preserves its inherent fruitiness. All that luscious apple and tropical fruit evokes a smile as the grilled chicken comes off the grill. $15.

AN APPLE A DAY…
I’ve seen the commercials for hard cider this and that, but I’m not buying it. I’ve tried some of those and most are too sweet and geared toward 20-somethings. But then I tried William Tell Hard Apple Ciders from Lodi, Calif. It was a revelation. Produced from a five-apple blend of Golden Russett, Gala, Fuji, Red Delicious and Granny Smith fruit, these ciders are decidedly food friendly, aromatic and refreshing. It is almost like, dare I say, sipping Champagne. Serve with grilled prawns. $9 for 22-ounce bottle.

Contact Drinks Editor Mark Nothaft via e-mail and click here and follow him on Twitter. Subscribe to his frequent columns on Examiner and click here.

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