Plan ahead for Labor Day grilling

August 21, 2013 

Labor Day weekend is rapidly approaching and it is one of my favorite holidays to have some friends over for a cookout. The only problem is pairing wines with the various foods that come off the grill as well as the summer heat. Instead of choosing what to grill and then pairing the wines, sometimes it is better to pick out what you want to drink and then match up the food.

A crisp, chilled Pinot Grigio is always nice on a hot day and this varietal pairs well with many the different flavors of grilled foods, as well as salads. In general, this varietal is very easy to pair with chicken, pork, fish and all types of shellfish.

In terms of seasonings, Pinot Grigio goes well with herbs such as cilantro, basil, rosemary and thyme. On the salad side, Caesar and Greek both pair nicely, but of the two I prefer a Greek salad because most Pinot Grigio wines are able to stand up to olives and feta cheese.

On the red side, the low tannin levels of a Pinot Noir varietal are well-suited for outdoor dining and this wine pairs well with almost any type of grilled lean cuts of meat, along with grilled vegetables and mushrooms. Since this varietal contains more acidity than tannins, a Pinot Noir is able to enhance food with more subtle flavors that are not too rich and fatty.

On the other hand, the tannins of varietals such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon create a pleasant mouth-feel when paired with more fatty cuts of meat such as a rib-eye or spices contained in barbecue sauce.

A mixed grill is a great way to enjoy both Pinot Noir and Pi

not Grigio, with grilled shrimp, pork tenderloin marinated in olive oil with fresh garlic and rosemary, and chicken skewered with green peppers and sweet onions. As appetizers, I would start with oysters on the half shell along with grilled portobello mushrooms that have been marinated in sesame oil and Worcestershire sauce. And, of course, there has to be a freshly made Greek salad.

The 2012 Robert Mondavi Private Selection Pinot Grigio from the Central Coast of California contains citrus and pear flavors. Wines from the Robert Mondavi Private Selection are very affordable and are produced in large enough quantities so they are fairly easy to find.

The portabello mushrooms should be a big hit with the 2011 Robert Mondavi Private Selection Pinot Noir, which is also from the Central Coast. The winemaker blended a little bit of Syrah and Petite Sirah to make the finished product, adding some richness to the flavors of this wine. This Pinot Noir contains strawberry and cherry flavors, followed by a smoky finish.

Both of these wines should taste great with just about everything on the menu --except the Pinot Noir is not a good mix for the Greek salad. In reality, there are very few salad-friendly red wines.

Jim Rawe, a family attorney in Bradenton, is an avid collector of fine wines. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at

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