Blog from Wine Director, Sean King:
Working at Michael’s on East and Michael’s Wine Cellar, I tend to view the year in thirds. January through May comprises our Season (intentionally with a capital S). From June to September is summer aka “BBQ and pool” season, and October through December combines both the holiday season and preparing for the mass migration of snowbirds that will bring us full-circle back to Season.
There are a few guarantees every summer here in the SRQ. The locals will complain about how hot it is. There is almost always a 20-minute thunderstorm between 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm. Yet despite the first two, invariably someone is grilling something and drinking some kind of summer wine. With plentiful access to boats, beaches and beautiful backyard oases in our area, this is a requisite summer activity.
But here is the thing about barbecues... You can fire up the grill for one, or for one hundred. Planned events designed to feed hordes of the hungry posted up poolside are great... but the best barbecue events seem to simply happen organically.
My dog Clyde and I will often walk to Morton’s Market for one pound of Niman Ranch skirt steak. (Often we will stop for a requisite cold beer to quench our thirst because I’m also a local who complains about the heat). Apply olive oil and season the meat, then onto the hot grill it goes. Six minutes later, the steak comes off the grill to cool before getting sliced and layered on top of a salad. A BBQ for one.
If I’m feeling more elaborate, I love to slow-cook baby back ribs in the oven for 7 hours while an espresso barbecue sauce simmers on the stove for a couple of hours. With hot dogs and hamburgers, I’ll enjoy a cold bottle of Stella Artois. But I prefer to pair with my ribs a red Zinfandel from Napa or Sonoma.
At Michael’s Wine Cellar, I get asked that question quite often this time of year. Zinfandel and barbecues are a natural pairing because they are a great deal alike. Since in a past life I was a winemaker, I have tasted literally hundreds and hundreds of Zinfandels. As great as the best ones are, they are still classified as “casual” wines in my opinion. With no disrespect to Zin lovers, I have never really thought of this varietal as world-class wines.
Barbecues are the same way. You can grill and serve lots of really delicious food at these parties, but at the end of the day, there’s just something about a grill that keeps it a casual affair. I’ll likely have people over to the backyard once or twice this summer, where I’ll serve ice-cold Stella, a few great rosés and very old vine Zinfandel from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma. Dashe Cellars or Martinelli will likely be my BBQ house wines for the 2019 summer season.
Both bottles are California Zinfandels, perfect red wines to pair with barbecue. One is affordably priced under $30; the other is a bit higher in price point but still accessible at $55.95. Both would make great hostess gifts for anyone invited to a barbecue this summer!
Notes of Black cherry, black raspberry, cassis, and hints of chocolate and licorice. One of the most intense Dry Creek Zinfandels Dashe has made, with dark chocolate and black pepper spice underlying the higher toned fruits. ($25.95)
A full-bodied wine, with a rich nose, and aroma of spice cake, raspberry, vanilla, black cherry, and prunes. Sweet and spicy, with a long finish and chewy tannins. ($55.95)
Shop online at MichaelsWineCellar.com or visit us in store at Michael’s Wine Cellar, 1283 S. Tamiami Trail, Midtown Plaza in Sarasota.