With all the running around before the Fourth of July -- shopping, cleaning the grill, making sure the barbecue is working and laying in hardwood charcoal or mesquite, it's easy to forget the wine. Just grabbing the first three wines under $20 you see is not the best strategy. Stop by a wine shop knowing what kinds of wine can stand up and play well with grilled meats and maybe even the barbecue sauce.
Here are some ideas -- but nothing is written in stone. Note that we've also included a couple of whites for those who prefer whites to reds. And if you can't find the exact wine, go with a similar wine from the same region or grape variety. You'll be fine. Wouldn't it be fun, though, to bring the bottle everyone agrees is the best of the evening?
These wines will do you proud.
BEAUTIFUL WITH STEAK: 2010 Fattoria di Felsina Chianti Classico, Tuscany (Italy), from $18 to $20. A classic Chianti from the stellar producer Fattoria di Felsina. Sangiovese goes beautifully with steak. (Remember Tuscany is the home of bistecca alla fiorentina, two-inch thick slabs of beef cooked over charcoal, blood rare at the center.) But a Chianti like this one will work equally well with grilled pork chops or ribs, grilled chicken -- and you might even choose it for salmon.
Available from Amazing Grapes Wine Store in Rancho Santa Margarita (949) 888-9007; Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa (949) 650-8463; K&L Wine Merchants in Hollywood (323) 464-9463; Manhattan Fine Wines in Manhattan Beach (310) 374-3454; The Wine Club in Santa Ana (714) 835-6485; The Wine Country in Signal Hill (562) 597-8303; The Wine House in West Los Angeles (310) 479-3731; Woodland Hills Wine Company in Woodland Hills (818) 222-1111 and (800) 678-9463; and others.
GREAT BUY: 2012 Bonny Doon Clos de Gilroy Central Coast Grenache, California, about $14. Note that the 2011 vintage is still in some stores. This blend of Grenache with a little Syrah and Cinsault from Bonny Doon's Randall Graham is always a solid performer and great buy. Intensely aromatic, it has the sturdy red fruit character to stand up to the grill's char and smoke. Drink it alone. Drink it with steaks, chops or ribs. And in hot weather, give it a slight chill.
GREAT BASIC: 2011 Easton Amador County Zinfandel, about $15. A beautiful young zinfandel from one of the stars of Amador County. A great basic to have on hand. It's quaffable, ready to drink now, tasting of plums and wild herbs, and with just enough tannins to keep it honest.
PRICED FOR A BURGER: 2011 Novy Four Mile Creek North Coast Red Wine, California, from $13 to $17. Small winery. Big family. And a red made from a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Zinfandel and Nebbiolo. Weird, I know, but well-made and a great value for this delightful little red. Priced for a burger, but with enough character and verve to hold its own with any barbecued meats. A great party wine.
Available at BestWinesOnline (888) 817-8880; K&L Wine Merchants in Hollywood (323) 464-9463; L.A. Wine Company in Marina del Rey (310) 306-9463; Lincoln Fine Wines in Venice (310) 392-7816; The Wine Crush in Long Beach (562) 438-9463; and Wine Exchange in Orange (714) 974-1454 and (800) 76WINEX.
RIPE AND ROUND: 2011 Domaine Terlato & Chapoutier Shiraz-Viognier, Victoria (Australia), about $14. This fresh spicy Shiraz with a touch of Viognier hails from central Victoria in Australia, but it's made by Rhone producer Michel Chapoutier and Napa Valley's Anthony Terlato. Ruby red, the Shiraz-Viognier is ripe and round, full in the mouth, tasting of red berries, sweet spice and black pepper.
Available from BestWinesOnline (888) 817-8880; L.A. Wine Company in Marina del Rey (310) 306-9463; Manhattan Fine Wines in Manhattan Beach (310) 374-3454; and Wine Exchange in Orange (714) 974-1454 and (800) 76WINEX.
WONDERFUL WITH FISH AND CHICKEN: 2011 Vietti Roero Arneis, Piedmont (Italy), from $20 to $25. A zesty dry white from the land of Barolo and Barbaresco made from the indigenous Arneis grape. Vietti was one of the first estates to rediscover Arneis and bring it back into production. With its fresh floral and citrus aromas, it's wonderful with grilled fish or shrimp, even plain grilled chicken. Note that some stores have the 2012 vintage.
Available at BestWinesOnline (888) 817-8880; Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa (949) 650-8463; K&L Wine Merchants in Hollywood (323) 464-9463; Manhattan Fine Wines in Manhattan Beach (310) 374-3454; Monopole Wine in Pasadena (626) 577-9464; Red Carpet Wine Merchants in Glendale (818) 247-5544 or (800) 339-0609; and Wally's Wine & Spirits in West Los Angeles (310) 475-0606.
COOL AND REFRESHING: 2012 Honig Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, California, about $14. A great buy for the price, this Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc is cool and refreshing, with aromas of lemongrass and citrus zest. Dry and minerally, it's a match for grilled fish, lobster or shrimp. Throwing some sardines on the barbecue? Have them with a glass of the Honig Sauvignon Blanc.
Available at Amazing Grapes Wine Store in Rancho Santa Margarita (949) 888-9007; BestWinesOnline (888) 817-8880; Duke of Bourbon in Canoga Park (818) 341-1234; Green Jug in Woodland Hills (818) 887-9463; K&L Wine Merchants in Hollywood (323) 464-9463; Lincoln Fine Wines in Venice (310) 392-7816; Manhattan Fine Wines in Manhattan Beach (310) 374-3454; Mission Wines in South Pasadena (626) 403-9463; Wally's Wine & Spirits in West Los Angeles (310) 475-0606; The Wine House in West Los Angeles (310) 479-3731; and Woodland Hills Wine Company in Woodland Hills (818) 222-1111 and (800) 678-9463.