wine Features

Father's Day, Barbecues, Heaven and Wine
By Dave Smith

I always find it rather amusing when James Lipton, on his show Inside the Actor's Studio, asks his celebrity guests what they'd like to hear God say to them as they enter the pearly gates. Watching them struggle to invent some grandiose, life-encompassing statement is worth the price of admission alone. Being a simpleton, I just want to hear, "We've been waiting for you. The barbecue is over there by the waterfall and there's an ice chest full of cold ones right next to it." To me, heaven is a cold beer and a hot grill.

Like many other backyard grill masters, I frequently make the mistake of overlooking the way that perfectly paired wines can make a great meal transcendent. So, for this Father's Day, fire up the grill and try these recipes from a few of America's top chefs. Alongside some great wines, they are guaranteed to make Dad's summer dinner one to remember. Life is short, so take advantage of those occasions where "flip-flops" and wine flights can peacefully co-exist at the same table.

The Appetizer

Bobby Flay's Grilled Squid and Sweet Onion Salad with Roasted Tomatoes and Green Chile Vinaigrette
Well-known for his abundant use of lively Southwestern flavors, it comes as no surprise that Mr. Flay's take on grilled squid salad includes poblano peppers and roasted garlic and tomatoes. Finding a wine to pair with green chiles can be challenging. Spicy food typically goes best with white wine, so try an Italian Vermentino. These wines have an appealing and delicate nose, silky texture, good acid and exotic, but not overpowering fruit. Rosé served slightly chilled also works well with assertively flavored foods

Mario Batali's Grilled Prawns with White Beans, Rosemary, Mache and Mint Oil
Mr. Batali's Italian dish consists of savory grilled shrimp with white beans and plenty of fresh herbs. The racy grapefruit elements of an Italian Sauvignon Blanc will contrast with the richness of the beans and prawns. Try the Pierpaolo Pecorari or the Isonzo del Friuli, both from Southern Italy. For a subtler pairing, try a southern Rhone White, whose oily texture and soft acidity will mirror the dish's qualities and keep Pops happy.

The Main Event

Norman Van Aken's Soy and Sesame Grilled Grouper with a Tropical Fruit Salad
The beauty of Mr. Van Aiken's creation is the smoky flavor of the marinated grouper, which is invigorated by a fresh and spicy tropical fruit salsa. To perfectly complement this sweet and spicy dish, Van Aiken suggests a Tavel rose or a California blush with low residual sugar. An excellent mid-priced option is the Delas 2000 Tavel Rose La Camballe. Its beautiful pink color is offset by a hint of orange, and its fruity nose offers a welcomed hint of toasted almonds. The palate is round, fruity, and reinforced by a subtle hint of spice, which will provide a wonderful accent to this delectable dish.

Chris Schlesinger's Grilled Delmonico Steak Adobe with Charred Spring Onions and Sweet Corn Relish
Grilled Rib Eye - now we're talking. My educated guess is that Fathers the world over would be licking their chops at the sight of Chef Schlesinger's spice-rubbed Delmonico smoking on their backyard grill. Add grilled onions and a spicy, sweet corn relish as garnish and the poor saps will suffering from the bends. Schlesinger suggests the 1997 Wolf Blass Shiraz from Southern Australia, and who am I to argue? Runner-up ideas would be Syrah from other corners of the world or a California Sangiovese. (Swanson and Chappelett are solid choices). These wines typically have bigger fruit and softer acidity than their Italian counterparts and would certainly enrich the experience.


Chris Schlesinger's Grilled Peaches with Blue Cheese and Sweet Balsamic
One of life's pleasures is a ripened peach. If you haven't tasted one that's been grilled to release its natural sugars and flavors, there's no time like the present. Pairing wine with grilled peaches is the easy part; you can match them up with just about anything. When gussied up with blue cheese and sweet balsamic vinegar, the dish calls for the deep brown, nutty flavors found in a Tawny Port or Madeira. Schlesinger opts for the Ramos Quinto da Ervamoira - 10 year Tawny port which will admirably accompany the boldness of the blue cheese and balsamic. The Henriques & Henriques - 10 year Madeira Bual offers walnut, lemon, and dried fruit aromas and flavors that also make it an enticing choice.

By no means, are the above recipes intended as a five-course prix fixe. They are ideas to inspire a quality grill-fest on Dad's day. The above wine offerings are starting points put forth to help avoid a "trial-by-error" scenario. Half the fun is getting there, so live a little and experiment with wine and food pairings. One thing is for certain: good wine will always elevate a meal to a higher level. But remember, there's always that cooler of cold beer that ain't half bad.

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