BBQ Season Wine Pairings

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.

A plate of food on a table

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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.

What is the Best Wine to Pair with Barbecue?  

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!


Zinfandel, Dashe Cellars, Dry Creek, Ca, 2015

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)

Zinfandel, “Guiseppe & Luisa” Martinelli, Russian River Valley, 2016

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 or visit us in store at Michael’s Wine Cellar, 1283 S. Tamiami Trail, Midtown Plaza in Sarasota.

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Wine Pairings for Caribbean Cuisine

Yes, it's impossible! In fact, our team can help you select the ideal bottle to pair with any type of cuisine.  Each month, as the Michael's On East culinary team is challenged to design a menu inspired by the world's most exotic food and wine meccas, our wine specialists at Michael's Wine Cellar work diligently to hand-pick the perfect red and white wine pairings for the Restaurant's Epicurean Adventures. (These featured lunch and dinner menus change monthly at Michael's On East!)  As we prepare for our July 2017 Caribbean Epicurean Adventure at the adjacent Restaurant, our team considered the following in selecting the wine pairings. 
Caribbean CuisineNancy reports: "As most of us can attest, Caribbean food tends to be pretty spicy.  Jerk seasoning, for example, is generally made with the hottest of chili peppers. A light crisp, dry white wine with lush flavors of citrus and other fruit such as peach pair well with Caribbean cuisine. Consequently, high tannic red wine can increase the heat found in spicy foods. Therefore, red wine made from grapes that are naturally low in tannins such as Pinot Noirand Merlot are good choices." 
If you're able to join us this July to try the Caribbean Adventure Adventure at Michael's On East, we look forward to presenting these featured wine pairings:  Riesling, "Selenium Vineyard", Pacific Rim, Horse Heaven Hills, WA (A dry Riesling!) Tasting Notes: Color- Pale straw Bouquet- Bouquet of jasmine and citrus Taste- Citrus, white peach and minerals Winemaking:   Our Wallula Vineyard Dry Riesling is crafted exclusively with ungrafted Geisenheim clone 198 Riesling grapes. We pick our grapes relatively ripe (22-23 Brix) in late October. The Riesling juice is fermented with native yeasts at cold temperatures for 30 days to dryness and then aged on lees in stainless steel tanks. We stir the wine on lees once or twice a week for five months. There is no oak and no malolactic on this wine.  Merlot, Napa Cellars, Napa Valley, CA Tasting Notes:  The 2013 Napa Cellars Napa Valley Merlot boasts aromas of black currant, raspberry and hints of thyme herbs on the nose. Subtle notes of tea leaf and cola lead to remarkable, opulent flavors of ripe plum, cherry, mushroom and white pepper on the palate. This wine showcases balanced acidity, which frames the full-bodied and round tannins, and extending through the finish. For a decadent meal, pair the 2013 Napa Cellars Napa Valley Merlot with roasted duck or honey-barbequed chicken with a side of ricotta risotto. Winemaking:  Once harvested, the grapes undergo a 9- to- 15- day maceration period and are fermented using the Délestage method. This process allows the winemaker to extract copious amounts of color and flavor from the skins, while avoiding excessive extraction of bitter and astringent flavors. After the fermentation process is complete, the wine is aged for 20 months in 99% French Oak barrels and 1% American Oak.  
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October Wine Pairings

featured-items-eatlikealocal-restaurantweek Each month, the culinary team at Michael's On East is challenged to design a unique menu inspired by the world's most exotic food (and wine!) destination as our wine specialists at Michael's Wine Cellar work hard to select perfect wine pairings for the featured menus. This October, Michael's culinary team at Michael's On East looks forward to celebrating the rich flavors of Italy and its classic Italian wines. In fact, October will will be a perfect time to "Dine to the Nines" at dozens of local, independent restaurants throughout Sarasota and Manatee Counties as part of "Eat Like a Local Restaurant Week, October 3-9, 2016. (Michael's On East is closed on Sundays including Sunday, October 9.) As you enjoy Michael's special Italian menu as part of Eat Like a Local Restaurant Week, we invite you to sip these hand-picked wine pairings designed to complement the two-course lunch ($19) and three-course dinner ($29) menus. WINE PAIRINGS Featured for $5 Each in October at Michael's On East Trebbiano "San Benedetto", Zenato, Lugana, IT Brilliant gold in color, Sergio Zenato Riserva Lugana offers an intense yet elegant floral bouquet. Beautifully layered on the palate, this wine tantalizes the senses with notes of stone fruit, vanilla and white flowers. Nero D’Avola, Stemmari, Sicily, IT Deep ruby-red with pleasant reflections of violet, this wine's bouquet is intense and covered, with notes of currant stick out, wild strawberries, and pomegranate. Soft and velvety, distinct characteristics of fruitiness come forth.
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Wine Pairings in the Restaurant

PortWineGlassesEach month, the culinary team at Michael's On East is challenged to design a unique menu inspired by the world's most exotic food (and wine!) destination as our wine specialists at Michael's Wine Cellar work hard to select perfect wine pairings for the featured menus. The following wines will be featured in the Restaurant this August, hand-selected to be paired with Chef Jamil and Chef Catherine's Indonesian Epicurean Adventure. Viognier/Chenin Blanc/Grenache Blanc, The Wolftrap, ZA, 2012 Complex flavors of fruit blossom, dried fruit and spice. Rich creamy texture with some minerality and elegant oak nuances. Balanced natural acidity with concentrated flavors that lingers on the palate. Pinot Noir "Light Horse", Jamieson Ranch Vineyards, CA, 2013 This deep garnet Pinot Noir showcases ripe cherry, strawberry and raspberry aromatics that commingle with anise, cinnamon and a hint of white pepper. Sumptuous red berry flavors blossom on the palate, while supple acidity and silken tannins contribute to the wine’s innate elegance.
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Michael's Wine Cellar
1283 S. Tamiami Trail
Sarasota, FL 34239