Some wines can pair well with grilling and barbecue

Wine Guy: Brian Goodell

Now that I've experienced senior prom and graduation with a daughter, I could easily say I've been tempted to drink wine for reasons other than taste recently. Tell me there won't be a wedding anywhere in the near future.

When our 18-year-old daughter asked if we were planning a graduation party for her, my response was, "Do you want us to be?" I couldn't have been more surprised when she said that she really wanted a barbecue with a small gathering of family and friends.

Maybe I shouldn't have been so surprised. After an unusually harsh winter, people have been getting out their grills with determination this spring.

It's as if they're trying to show the forces of nature that they are not defeated, and that they will enjoy the outdoors in 2007 in spite of everything the weather wrought. So I joined them and planned such an event, which was carried off on a late Sunday afternoon.

When grilling, it's an ideal time to eat outdoors, and there's something special about dining al fresco with all of the stemware and utensils that you would use indoors. You don't need to use paper plates and cups to eat outside, nor should you in most cases.

Set a table outside with elegance and style and see if it doesn't just jump out at you and say, "This is something we should do more often!" Grilled meats and the like are easy wine matches, and you can serve anything from light, fruity "picnic" wines on up to some serious bottles of red or white.

The quality of the wine can be matched to the type of meat. Burgers and casual fare can go with Australian shiraz, California zinfandel or West Coast merlot. Top-grade steaks or rack of lamb call for good cabernet sauvignon, bordeaux or Chateauneuf du Pape, while expensive seafood goes well with red or white burgundy, Oregon pinot noir or a Chilean chardonnay.

Just be careful not to let the wine sit in the sun and be ruined by getting too warm. Here's to warm weather, happier days, and the pleasures of wine, food and friends.

Write me with your thoughts or questions at brian.goodell@morris.com. Until next time, happy pours.

Wine Guy's Pick of the Week

Two serious barbecue wines for you to consider this week are Hayman and Hill's Dry Creek Valley Reserve Selection Zinfandel ($15 ), and B.R. Cohn's North Coast Silver Label Cabernet Sauvignon ($24). These can grace the table indoors for a sophisticated meal, but are also right at home outside with grilled meats and all the fixings.

Hayman and Hill have struck gold with their 2004 zin. This is a very plummy, jammy, big alcohol zinfandel. The fruit really hits your palate, but the wine still has enough backbone to stand up to a wide variety of meats and dishes.

It's the ideal wine for barbecued ribs, and works nicely with pasta as well. It also held up very well in the bottle after being open for a couple of days.

On the cabernet side, B.R. Cohn gives us a very weighty (14.1 percent) offering that won't overwhelm you, despite the high alcohol content. This wine is a beauty - stylish, correct in its character and complex even at a young age.

If you are drinking the 2005 vintage, decanting will help open it up, although it isn't entirely necessary. You will taste dark cherries, cassis and a bit of mint once the flavor profile is sufficiently opened.

Ours was better the second day, and a braised beef roast encrusted with fennel seeds and fresh parsley was a perfect match. Serve this one with any grilled red meat or hearty dish.