Chow Time: Barbeque & Wine – Four Ways for the Fourth

Pairing wines with food is a noble duty. This is particularly true on the Fourth of July, a classic American holiday when fireworks and barbequed foods reign supreme and the choice of tasty wine can enhance the meal that much more.

To many, it’s as simple as serving hamburgers and hot dogs with their favorite bottles of Chardonnay or Merlot. But for those of you looking for a little more adventure, here are four scrumptious ideas to help the cause.

Grilled chicken and vegetables with Sauvignon Blanc

Known for its fresh aromatics, fruity flavors, zesty acidity and crisp finish, white wines made with Sauvignon Blanc grapes can offer a refreshing alternative to the buttery styles of Chardonnay in the summertime. A great example of this style is the Shooting Star 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, Lake County ($10). This wine features fresh aromas, bright flavors of melon, fig and gooseberry, and a crisp, refreshing finish. Besides pairing nicely with barbecued chicken marinated in white wine, herbs and citrus, the vibrant acidity of the wine also works great with grilled asparagus, squash, onions and other veggies that are often difficult to pair with.

Prawns Skewers with Dry Pink Wines

For seafood lovers, an easy technique is to combine prawns, pineapple, red onions and green bell pepper on skewers and grill on the barbeque. For a refreshing compliment to the dish, try the Isabel Mondavi 2010 “Deep Rosé” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($21). Made with high-quality fruit from the Mondavi family’s vineyards in Atlas Peak and Pope Valley; this bright and juicy wine features lush flavors ripe raspberry, strawberry and cranberry, a burst of fresh acidity, and a long smooth finish. Lip smackin’ good!

BBQ Pork Spareribs with Old Vine Zinfandel

Let’s face it, all barbeque sauces are not created equal. Some are sweet and tangy, while others can be much more bold and spicy. To match up with this wide range of flavors, I tend to lean towards serving Old Vine Zinfandel. Known as California’s “sweetheart grape,” the varietal has been grown in the state since the mid-1800s. Many of these older vineyards are “field blends” of Zinfandel interplanted with Petite Sirah, Carignane, Mourvedre (Mataro) other red grape varieties. When blended together, the unique flavors of the varietals pair nicely with the ingredients used to make the sauce.

To match up with BBQ Pork Spareribs, try the Carol Shelton 2008 “Wild Thing” Old Vine Zinfandel, Cox Vineyard, Mendocino ($19), a blend of Zinfandel and smaller portions of Carignane, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon. This new release made by Carol Shelton (a.k.a. the “Queen of Zin”), features concentrated flavors of ripe raspberry, dark cherry, plum, creamy vanilla and layers of spice. In a nutshell, inherent deliciousness from start to finish!

Lamb sliders with Syrah

As an alternative to hamburgers, a tasty option is to make lamb sliders topped with melted Vermont white cheddar, spicy aioli, arugula and grilled peppers served on a sweet baguette. As a rule, lamb works extremely well with Syrah.

Celebrating his 30th vintage as a winemaker, Bob Lindquist of Qupe Winery is a big fan of working with Syrah grapes grown in Paso Robles and Santa Barbara County. His latest release of the Qupe 2010 Syrah, Central Coast ($18) is loaded with concentrated flavors of red berries, plum, red currants, and savory spices. Lively and focused!

Christopher Sawyer is a celebrity sommelier, journalist and wine expert for wine recommendation website Likelii.com. Chris has been a personal sommelier for many luminaries, from the Getty Family to the Gorbachevs, as well as for Oscar-winning director and chief creative officer of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios, John Lasseter. He was named Top Ten Sommeliers of Wine Country 2011 by The Wine Tasting Panel Magazine and travels the world as a judge in international wine competitions. He has been featured in a wide array of national media, including USAToday, MSN, NBC, ABC, CNN, Redbook, Maxim, National Geographic Traveler and Esquire.

For more wine recommendations, please see Likelii.com, Facebook.com/MyLikelii, and Twitter.com/Likelii

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