Wine of the Week: ‘Steaking’ a claim for grill worthy wines

With all three of our sons spread across the country, getting them all together for dinner during the summer takes an act of Congress — and we all know how hard that can be.

But one of the surefire ways we can get them to find their way home and sit down and spend some a little quality time with us is to prepare their favorite dinner: A perfectly grilled bone-in rib eye steak, served with fresh corn on the cob.

But as picky as our children are about their choice of grilled fare, so too is our choice of wine that we want to pair with these cherished meals together.

When it comes to grilling, I am a devoted fan of the craft, so the wines I tend to gravitate toward have to be able to live up to the effort I put forth in the preparation of the main course. I confess, I do have the propensity to seek out bigger red wines that tend to be a little more fruit-forward on the palate and driven by tannins that help cut through the fat of well-marbled meat.

And it is important to note, many of my favorite red-meat red wines don’t command an expensive price tag. There are a lot of grilled-fare friendly reds that will hold up their end of the proverbial bargain when it comes time to scratch that steak itch.

Some of the best bargains in steak friendly wines are red blends. For example, the domestic version of Bordeaux-style wines is known as a “Meritage” (rhymes with heritage) and is usually a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot in varying percentages. Best of all, you don’t have to go far to find a great example.

The 2019 King Family Vineyards Meritage is produced right down the road in Monticello, Virginia. A perennial Virginia Governor’s Cup winner, this Bordeaux-style red is a blend of 48% Merlot, 28% Petit Verdot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 4% Malbec. It shines with aromas of black cherry, currants, and blueberry on the nose and flavors of blackberry, cassis, chocolate and spice flavors that would complement any steak with straightforward seasonings. $34

Another example of a classic Meritage — this time from the west coast — is the 2018 Girard Artistry Red from Napa Valley, California. It is a Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Verdot, Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet Franc with just a touch more Cabernet Franc than you might see in other blends, which really highlights the bold flavors of blackberry, cassis, dark plum and spice that would be happy sliding up to any steak with just about any seasoning. $40

I recently had Owen Row winemaker and co-owner David O’Reilly on the Vine Guy podcast to talk about his venture in Washington State. I have to say, I was thoroughly intrigued by the stories of his ancestral home in Ireland and how the artwork on his labels pay homage to his family’s history. So don’t let the severed hand on the label of the 2019 Owen Row Sinister Hand from Columbia Valley in Washington State dissuade you from pairing this big beauty with your favorite cut of beef. This Rhone-style wine is a blend of 57% Syrah, 18% Grenache, 18% Mourvèdre, 5% White Rhone, and 2% Cinsault. The lively nose features aromas of black raspberry, dark plum and hints of toasty oak. Flavors of black cherry, olive tapenade and black pepper are perfectly integrated with the fine tannins and juicy acidity. This switch-hitting wine would be right at home with steak or lamb. $26

Of course, a traditional steak-and-wine pairing calls for a big Cabernet Sauvignon. Now, most oenophiles would immediately think California — and that’s a good choice — but the 2020 Tapiz Cabernet Sauvignon from the Mendoza region of Argentina delivers a lot of oomph for the money. It is a big, spicy wine featuring flavors of blackberry, dark plum and ripe boysenberry built on a well-balanced frame. Earthy notes of black pepper shine on the stylish finish, where the firm tannins and crisp acidity form a solid backbone, providing great structure. Perfect with dry-rubbed steak. $19

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