Labor Day is coming up. Of course you've got your weekend burger planned. But what are you going to drink with it?
Burgers come in all guises, from Tommy’s chili-drenched patties to haute grass-fed beef burgers adorned with farmhouse cheese on a shiny fresh-baked bun. OK, so you probably don’t want to pop the cork on a favorite Cabernet for that Tommy’s burger. In truth, no wine could stand up to that fluorescent orange mystery chili. But for a great burger, whether in a restaurant or at home, you want a red wine of some interest, something heads above Two Buck Chuck. And to that end, here are a handful of picks.
NV Sherman & Hooker Shebang! Red Cuvee VII (California)
This terrific non-vintage blend of Zinfandel, Grenache, Alicante, Petite Sirah and Sangiovese from Bedrock Wine Co. founder (and master of wine) Morgan Twain-Peterson is just what’s needed in a burger wine. Peppery and full of fruit and spices, Shebang! hits all the right notes. And it’s a bona fide bargain. About $13.
2010 Brancaia “Tre” Rosso Toscano (Tuscany, Italy)
“Tre” is a blend of Sangiovese with 10% each Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from Brancaia’s three estates in Tuscany. Easygoing, but with character and substance, the 2010 conjures up the taste of blueberries and dark cherries and something darker and more earthy. Think of it as a strongly drawn secondary character. Maybe not the lead, but I’m happy to open a bottle for dinner at home with friends anytime. From $16 to $20.
2010 Borgo Scopeto Chianti Classico (Tuscany, Italy)
Here’s one Chianti that looks back to the days when you could easily find a great one for under $20. From Castelnuovo Berardenga in the southern reaches of the Chianti Classico region, the 2010 Borgo Scopeto tastes of dark cherries and spice with a touch of pepper and anise. A very pretty wine and an amazing value for a Chianti Classico. From $12 to $15.
2005 LAN Rioja Gran Reserva (Rioja, Spain)
Hard to believe, but the 2005 is the latest release of the LAN Gran Reserva. Rioja works on a different time scale than the rest of the wine world, releasing their reds only when they’re ready to drink. Mostly Tempranillo with just 10% each Mazuelo and Garnacha, the 2005 still tastes youthful. Such a pretty wine with notes of cherry, spice and earth -- and a pleasant rasp of tannin. About $19.
2012 August West Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands (Central Coast)
With its vibrant fruit and lush texture, this August West Pinot Noir is an elegant expression of the Santa Lucia highlands in a stellar vintage and at a very attractive price. From $26 to $30.
2012 Enkidu “E” Old Vine Field Blend (Sonoma County)
Enkidu’s old-vine field blend is 60% Zinfandel, 24% Carignane, and 8% each Alicante Bouschet and Petite Sirah, reflecting how vines were planted in the three vineyards that go into this appealing rustic blend. One of them, Bedrock Vineyard, clocks in at 125 years old. With its flavors of dark berries and wild herbs, “E” recalls village wines of the southern Rhone. I took one sip and wanted another and another. From $18 to $22.
2012 Quivira Vineyards Wine Creek Ranch Grenache (Sonoma County)
The 2012 Quivera Grenache from Wine Creek Ranch is silky and smooth, tasting of black cherries and dried wild herbs. Delicious and easygoing, but with some depth and character, it’s made from grapes farmed biodynamically. About $32.
2012 Ridge Vineyards “Benito Dusi Ranch” Paso Robles Zinfandel (Central Coast)
Ridge Vineyards 2012 Zinfandel from the 90-year-old “Benito Dusi Ranch” vineyard in Paso Robles is stunningly good. Lush and full-bodied, this deep dark red is perfumed with cherries and plums and tastes of that fruit plus sweet spices, cracked black pepper and a touch of dried herbs. Tannins are there, but seamlessly integrated into this beautiful Central Coast Zin. From $25 to $29.
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