Lest you think that barbecue is only for carnivores, think again. This is the Bay Area: We know better.
Picking up from where we left off last week, I like grilled shrimp with dry, mineral-driven white wines such as grüner veltliner or some of the wines from central or northern Italy. Since I wrote about grüner and Soave recently, my alternative go-to is Casale Marchesi Frascati Superiore 2011 ($14) from Lazio near Rome. Ever so slightly frizzante, it will bring zing to freshly grilled prawns.
One of the best red wine and fish pairings is grilled ahi tuna and pinot noir. A fruity yet earthy pinot noir that does not have too much tannin would be my choice. For the money, the 2010 Underwood Cellars from Oregon ($15) is impossible to beat.
Pinot noir can match grilled salmon as well, but in my backyard, nothing tops pinot gris from France’s Alsace region, Germany or Oregon (Italian pinot grigio, not so much). Alsatian pinot gris is often a little sweet, and that is OK because it should have plenty of acid to keep it in check. German pinot gris can be just as good a match, and it is generally less expensive. While it may not have as wide a palate of characteristics, there is plenty of nuance. Westrey’s pinot gris ($16) from the Willamette Valley is the best buy in this category, with quality matching wines that are more than $20.
Portobello mushrooms are the standard vegetarian grilling fare and, boring as that may be, there is no point in fighting it — especially when paired with an earthy, as in forest-floor, mushroomlike wine. Nebbiolo is the first grape that comes to mind. Barolo and Barbaresco are expensive, but a good Nebbiolo d’Alba is all you need. Check out Marco Porello 2009 ($18).
Grilled peppers, no matter the color, are a quandary. On one hand, I’m tempted to go for wines that share similar flavor components, such as sauvignon blanc or cabernet franc. On the other hand, this might be overkill and a bright, citrus-tinged white wine might be better. I am left standing in the sauvignon blanc aisle looking for a wine that has a good balance of fruit, minerality and acidity without noticeable oak. From Mendocino County, Elizabeth Spencer Wines’ 2011 SB ($15) is as smashing as the 2010.
Last, nothing says barbecue like grilled corn. And if there is one reason why buttery California chardonnay exists, it is to match with this ubiquitous maize. Humanitas 2011 ($14) has that all-out character many have come to expect from California chardonnay, but it also retains balance and the winery donates proceeds to a range of charities.
Some of these wines can be found at these retailers: 6001 California Market, Arlington Wine & Spirits, Beltramo’s, Berkeley Bowl, Biondivino, Cal-Mart, Castro Village Wines, Cheese Plus, Coit Liquor, Dig, Farmstead Cheeses & Wines, Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant, The Jug Shop, K&L Wine Merchants, Mollie Stone’s Portola, Paul Marcus, Solano Cellars, PlumpJack Noe Valley, Wine Steward, Vintage Berkeley, Vino, Whole Foods and William Cross Wine Merchants.
Pamela S. Busch was the founding partner of Hayes and Vine and CAV Wine Bars, and is a wine educator and writer.