In search of something with a little more style than beers and sodas to go with food during summer grilling season? Check out the current array of low-cost red wines, offering something for almost every palate. The prices mean you can be a good host. You can afford to make a pairing mistake and not suffer the agony of seeing unappreciative guests guzzle your finer Cabernet, Barolo, Bordeaux or Burgundy wines after killing their taste buds with a barbecued burger stacked with Anaheim chilies and habanero peppers.
The following tasting notes, expanded from previous Tweets over the past two months, are in order of bottle cost, from low to high. Most wines are in decent quantity and were found at big box stores, beverage chain stores and a local merchant specializing in great finds in value wines, San Diego Wine and Beer Co.
The Spanish varietals, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and bigger red blends have the weight to handle most barbecue dishes (have the chilies, peppers and other spicier condiments on the side ready to serve, not in your marinade or barbecue sauce). A big Malbec or Zinfandel can be a treat with beef from the smoker. Pinot Noir, which is more nuanced and subtle, can be paired with appetizers and milder dishes, such as grilled pork, chicken or salmon
Value burger/picnic Calif. Petite Sirah ’14 Main & Geary $9. Ripe grape, prune nose (14% alc.); mid-body; good fruit; long semi-chewy finish.
- Fine $11 Washington Merlot ’14 Ch. Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley. Cocoa, mint, berry nose; mid-body; balanced; good fruit/flavor; soft tannins.
- Value $11 Oregon Pinot Noir ’15 Erath. Black fruit, stemmy PN nose; mid-body; balanced; soft fruity finish.
- Bigger Mendoza Malbec ’14 Norton $13. Prune, mint, pepper nose; mid-big body; tight tannins; long chewy, fruity finish.
- Spanish wine for beef eaters, Campo Arriba ’14 Red (Monastrell, Syrah) $13. Ripe grape, jam nose; mid-body; long semi-chewy finish, ala Zin or Petite Sirah.
- Cabernet blend BBQ and burger Washington red Notebook WA7NV $13 (70% Cab, 10 each Merlot, Malbec, Syrah). Dried fruit nose; mid-body; fat, grapey/berry finish.
- Bonny Doon ’14 Monterey Grenache $14 BBQ wine. Herbaceous, strawberry, woody nose; mid-body; semi-tight tannins; chewy finish.
- Burger/picnic Paso Robles Zinfandel ’14 Peachy Canyon Westside $14. Blackberry jam, wood nose; mid-body, balanced, soft fruity finish.
- BBQ/pizza/pasta wine ’14 Alexander Valley Vineyard Homestead red blend $14. Berry, wood, mint nose (45% Merlot, 34% Zin); mid-body; good fruit/tannins.
- Food-friendly $14 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ’14 Irony. Cherry, light PN nose, stemmy; mid-body; decent tannins/acids; smooth finish.
- $14 easy sipping Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ’15 Cline. Varietal, cherry, wood nose; mid-body; balanced; decent acids; soft tannins. Food wine.
- BBQ/burger $14 Maipo Chile, Merlot ’14 Santa Ema Reserve. Jam, hyacinth, wood nose; mid-body, some style; long smooth finish; almost cocoa-like.
- Zinfandel fans ’15 Dry Creek Vineyard Heritage Vines $15. Redwood, bramble nose; mid-body; raspberry flavors; long hot layered finish. BBQ wine.
- Fine Dry Creek Vineyard ’14 Cabernet $16. Varietal, jam, oak nose; big body; long fruity finish.