The Casual Summer BBQ

25 Jun

Some barbecues take themselves very seriously. Not ours. We (my family and our next –door neighbors) try to throw a totally casual barbecue around Memorial Day. This year, our weekend was too busy for most of the families and it took a few weeks to get a cookout together.

Once we finally scheduled the evening it came together quickly.  A few emails assigned who was responsible for what elements. “Will we have enough food?” I ask. They tease me back with “Who will bring the wine?” It shuts me up for a brief moment. I shopped a few days before, and my wife did last minute on the day-of event as I had shows to mix. Suddenly I was back home, taking the cover off the Weber grill and heating it up, grabbing my pre-selected bottles and pulling corks.

My neighbors Gary and Lori are lovely, smart, fun people -like most of our Forest Hills neighborhood. Lori is a great cook and enjoys tasting wine –she’s often my first stop to share a glass when I find something new- and I brought over the tiny remainder of a bottle of Modus Operandi’s Vicarious to taste, as she’d tasted their Petite Syrah with me before. Vicarious is another phenomenal wine made by Jason Moore that is the best of both worlds– a delicious blend in the Bordeaux tradition, with Napa grapes. Deep purple to black in color, stunning dark fruit, bold,  delicious, with a medium to long finish. Very little is made- only 13 barrels of the ‘09- but like any great art, it’s worth going out of your way to experience.

We ooh’d and aah’d over the wine,
 finishing my bottle as  Lori opened one of her own for me to try: Ripken Vineyards 2005 Late Harvest Viognier, 100% Lodi, a dessert wine. Knowing I had recently served Lori a small glass of the stunning Chateau Climens 1990, I wondered how this would compare, if it could be in the same realm as a Sauternes, if it would be more along the lines of the strawberry, blueberry, or blackberry dessert wines I’ve tasted. No, I was flabbergasted- this was indeed pure Viognier, and tasted so delicious- a golden sunset color, lightly sweet nose, with flavors of honey, beeswax, peaches and apricots and NO flavor of noble rot. This wine, I had to admit, tasted as good a dessert wine as the Chateau Climens on my palate. Lori explained that her sister’s family is part of this vineyard, and I was even more impressed. I plan to buy wines from these folks and see what else they have up their sleeves.

After the taste of the Ripken, it was time to grill. I got to work, and took breaks for a moment or two to pour a few glasses as guests arrived. I had three bottles open for the guests in our backyards:

The first and lightest of the three is St. Martin Reserve Chardonnay 2010. I found this Pays D’Oc last summer as a great choice from the South of France, it’s a gently oaked Chardonnay that exudes a fresh, crisp and fruity feel to it with a touch of citrus on the nose. It’s easy drinking and perfect for a hot summer day or people who want something light and fun, not a full-bodied wine. It’s frustrating that a google search reveals nothing about this vineyard, but I can take that in stride: they make solid, enjoyable wines that are affordable. Let them remain off the grid. I get this from Sherry Lehman at around $8 to $9/bottle, and their Cabernet is also well worth getting as both are a great value.

The next wine I opened was the Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvingon 2009 from Colchagua, Chile. This is an estate owned & operated by Baron Eric Rothschild, and this wine is made quite well at a price of a regular vin du table. Served at a dusk cookout, no one notices the label but people recognize a delicious and smooth cab, perfectly crafted with flavors of lush red and black fruit, gentle hint of wood, vanilla, cacao, and great easy balance. Medium bodied, easy to pair with anything. Over the last several years it’s become my standard choice for a daily red (if I ever had such a thing) but a wine I trust implicitly to be a crowd favorite, to pair easily, and to always deliver at below $10/bottle. Who could ask for more?

My final wine to serve was Alamos Malbec 2009. From Mendoza, Argentina, this wine is a little more powerful with strong dark fruit, pepper, burnt sugar, and a touch of wood. The spicy response of this wine is perfect for someone who wants a little more kick to their meal and a longer finish.  At $6-8/bottle, it’s a great buy.

After several hours of food and great conversation, we wound up our evening with smiles and laughter, heading to our respective homes. Lori shared the last bit of the Ripken Late Harvest Viognier with several small glasses handed out as we said our goodnights. A lovely finish to a great evening with friends, neighbors, and delicious wine.

What’s your favorite wine to serve at a casual cookout?

à votre santé! 


2 Responses to “The Casual Summer BBQ”


  1. To Lodi, with Love | jvb uncorked - August 10, 2016

    […] Ripken Vineyards’ 2006 Late Harvest Viognier […]


  2. An Over the Top Zin! « jvb uncorked - October 28, 2012

    […] recall my mention of my neighbors and their connection with Lodi wines, you can find a refresher here  in my post The Casual Summer BBQ. The link to the Ripkin winery and their phenomenal Late […]


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