Grill and Chill!

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Barbecuing is quite an American pastime. We take in the aromas wafting around the neighborhood; we bond over the ritual of stoking coals and placing precision grill marks on prime beef.

This ritual is a conduit for bringing families and communities together. We have block parties in August to celebrate as neighbors, sharing potluck items, stories and, yes, barbecue recipes that earn bragging rights until the next grilling competition.

With August upon us, we may think summer is passing us by; with baseball games, soccer matches and earlier school shopping, we may not have had time to organize an official family vacation. The summer barbecue can make us feel the relaxation of a proper holiday at a fraction of the planning. Choose your meats, vegetables, salads, beverages and games, and you’re grillin’ and chillin’ in no time at all.

Barbecue menus have evolved since we grew up with hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks and corn on the grill. Today’s outdoor chefs are proficient with grilled portabellas, zucchini squash, asparagus and pizza cooked right on the grill.
Backyard and patio beverages have enjoyed the addition of summer fruits such as watermelon and berries; now we have even more reason to enjoy them with a variety of fresh sangria recipes. Let’s add some wine to the mix! Two of my favorite summer wines are rosé wines and rieslings, both of which come in sweet or dry styles.

Rosé All Day!
We can’t talk about summer barbecue without talking about “summer in a bottle,” also known as rosé, in my house. Rosé comes in a variety of formats, from dry to sweet varieties, with a few slightly effervescent gems that deliver just the right balance of fun and flavor to go with the essence of summer living.

What makes a rosé wine different from red wine? In the traditional method of making rosé, the skins of the red grapes will sit not longer than three days in contact with the juice before the mixture is pressed and the skins are discarded. With red wine, the process of fermentation includes the grape skins. This explains the lighter, pinkish color of rosé, rather than the deeper red color in red wine, which relies on the longer fermentation and soak of the grape skins to impart color and other great qualities found in red wine.

We can find rosé wines in a few styles including still wine, sparkling wine and blush wine, all ranging in sweetness and dryness from a variety of grapes from around the world. Rosé wines are available in single varietals or blends that may include mourvèdre or cabernet sauvignon to round out the body and mouth feel of the wine.

Cultivate your garden of rosé! At your next barbeque, set out a few rosé wines for folks to enjoy. Some of my favorite are grenache rosé, zinfandel rosé, tempranillo rosé and syrah rosé, just to name a few.

Summer of Riesling
Rieslings are amazing wines for summer for a variety of reasons. Restaurants throughout the United States carry a variety of rieslings by the glass, beginning in June and lasting through August. Before you assume that all rieslings are sweet, think again. What’s amazing about these wines is the acidity that pairs well with all those lovely barbecue sauces, spices and cooking techniques, including smokers.

The best part is that the acid in the wine may come across as a bit tart, but that means it won’t leave a sugary coating on your tongue when you bite into that spicy-peppered, sauced-up babyback rib or bratwurst sausage. Seafood? No problem; those oysters on the grill were nature-made to enjoy with a fresh crisp glass of riesling.

The domestic wine regions of Washington State and the Finger Lakes Region of New York produce lovely rieslings. These northern areas provide a great environment for growing this extraordinary varietal that’s held in high regard for its complexity and ability to age well. Why? Much of the flavor profile of rieslings includes aromas and textures reminding our palates of apricot, pineapple, melon and sometimes peach, with a bit of tart on the finish yet smooth, like honey on the tongue.

Barbecue sauces come in a variety of spice and smoke, which makes the wine pairings even more fun. Making the wine portion of the BBQ a pot luck could be a fun way to explore the varieties of rosés and rieslings. Cover each one with a decorative bag and let the group decide which one is the overall best wine.

My secret summer tip is to keep a bottle or two of prosecco chilled at all times for those occasions when you need to add a little flair to your iced fruit teas, sangria or lemonade. ■

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