The weather is hot and girls are dressing less. And checking out the fellas to tell ’em who’s best. Summer essentials: friends, a hot grill, some old-skool hip hop, food, and a perfect wine that brings the afternoon together as it easily blends into a hot evening. Ignore tradition and go for taste combinations that reveal surprising synergy for your summertime grilling.
Grilled salmon: Be good to your body, your guests and the world by purchasing wild caught; skip the farm raised nonsense. The rich, oily and powerful taste of salmon can be counterbalanced by Albariño from northern Spain, with its zesty profile and minerally finish. Our choice: Martin Codax ($13).
Hot dogs: No bbq is complete with it; Summer itself isn’t complete without a beautifully chilled Provencal rosé. Bone dry and crisp, it works perfect. Our choice: Chateau de Brigue ($12).
Ribs: Earthy, chewy, messy — a rustic pleasure. Perfect pairing is France’s great rustic wine, Syrah. (America makes some great ones too.) Our choice: Barrel 27 “Head Honcho” ($28).
Shrimp: Naturally a bit sweet, delicate, and only lightly oiled and spiced if you know what you’re doing. Perfect pairing: Gewürztraminer. Our choice: Claiborne & Churchill “Dry” Arroyo Seco ($20).
Hamburgers: Juicy and unctuous, with surprisingly subtle flavors underneath the grilled veneer. If it’s unadorned with cheese or other big flavors, don’t go gargantuan. A great pairing would be a Sicialian Nero d’Avola – it’s medium-bodied with moderate tannins. Our choice: Gulfi Nerojbleio ($20)
Chicken: This is where your can really break from tradition. If your bird has some kick to the rub or the sauce, go light red rather than white. A bold California Pinot will do nicely. A more unusual choice is a Beaujolais-like red that is best served chilled: J. Lohr Estates Wildflower Valdiguié ($10).
Tri-tip, brisket or steak: This is where Old School holds sway. The heavy-hitter of the barbecue world should really be paired with its traditional partner, a Cabernet Sauvignon or big Bordeaux. However, explore beyond Napa; California is blessed with many fantastic wine regions. Explore: 2013 DAOU Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon ($25). If you’re secret sauce tends be on the sweeter side, then go for a Zinfandel like Tobin James “James Gang Reserve” ($25).
Potato salad: Settle your eyebrows back down! Some of us are happy to park ourselves in front of a big ol’ bowl of mashed -up comforting spuds, especially if there’s some great barbecue sauce handy. A cool-climate Californian Sauvignon Blanc works beautifully with the often delicate, pleasantly vinegar-y taste of potato salad; go for a Tangent Sauvignon Blanc ($11).
Party Music: Bump this #VINOMUSIC playlist to keep all your guests grooving and be sure to salute America!