We’re finally coming into one of our favorite seasons: summer.
And why do we love summer so much? Beyond the obvious — sunshine, duh! — we like our increased cooking options (read: we love to grill).
Pairing wine with grilling recipes is fun because the selection is vast — many reds, and even some whites, are great accompaniments to food touched by a grill.
For this week’s pairing we wanted to ignore the go-to wines and instead recommend a varietal you might not be familiar with. The wine we’re thinking of is considered the backbone of many wines from one of our favorite wine regions in France, the Rhone Valley. But it likely originated in Spain.
It’s also a grape that has done well in Washington, especially in the Walla Walla area.
So what grape are we talking about? None other than Grenache.
Typically you’ll find Grenache in red blends that include syrah, mourvedre, cinsault and carignan. (Think France’s Chateauneuf-du-Pape). But we’ve seen a trend among Washington winemakers to use Grenache as a stand-alone variety.
That’s great for us wine lovers because this grape, if done right, is a perfect food wine. It’s also a great choice to match with Ann Vogel’s Persian beef shish kebabs and her Filipino barbecued port kebabs.
Grenache is a good red for summer because it is light enough for a warm evening, but holds the weight and structure needed to stand up to the range of flavors a grill can infuse on food.
Flavor characteristics of Grenache include fruits like blackberries and black currants, white pepper, allspice and cinnamon. It’s a wine that doesn’t need a lot of oak, but if oak is used it can add hints of vanilla and even smoke depending on how toasted the inside of the barrels are.
There are a number of Washington wineries that produce great Grenaches. Here’s a few to look out for the next time you’re in the store: Maison Bleue, Milbrant Vineyards, Alexandria Nicole Cellars, Barnard Griffen Winery, Novelty Hill and McCrea Cellars.
We also recommend Trio Vintners, which we tried while at Taste Washington earlier this year. Winemaker Karen LaBonte lets the wine sit for 21 months in barrels with minimal new oak, which allows the grape’s flavors to shine instead of being muddled by oak.
The wine is listed at $26. The only hitch is it’s not available in Kitsap, but if you’re in Seattle it’s available at the Sixth Avenue Wine Cellar in the Pacific Place shopping center downtown or at Esquin Wine and Spirits, 2700 Fourth Avenue South in downtown Seattle.