My grandparents owned a corner grocery store back in Indiana when I was growing up and my grandfather Sam was an old-fashioned butcher, cutting meat by hand on a wood butcher block table. Every Monday, a new side of beef arrived and he would painstakingly whittle it down to the various roasts and cuts and grind his own hamburger.
If there were any leftover steaks by noon Sunday--yes, he worked 6½ days a week--he would call my dad and say, “Light the grill!” That didn’t happen a lot, but somehow he managed to always have leftovers on Labor Day Weekend. So when I was 7 or 8, I was accustomed to eating good and incredibly fresh steak. The fact that my dad tended to cook the life out of them is another blog post altogether.
If those memories weren’t enough, the Sept. 30, Wine Spectator put me in the mood for this weekend with the cover: “All About Beef: A Comprehensive Guide.”
The issue offers plenty of advice on what wines to drink with dozens of recipes from top chefs, but I wanted to add by two cents with an emphasis on value and availability. (In case you can’t afford to splurge on both great wine and great steak.)
Two of my favorite Cabernets in this category are Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Knights Valley 2009 (91 points, $27) and Sebastiani Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County 2008 (88, $18). The Beringer is more full-bodied, but the Sebastiani is polished and fleshy. If you’re looking for easygoing, fruit-driven Merlots, try Tangley Oaks Merlot Napa Valley Lot #10 2009 (88, $15) or Discoveries Merlot California 2009 (85, $10).
It’s tough to beat Argentina right now when it comes to widely available, tasty reds selling at a fair price. Two of my go-to reds are Bodega Norton Malbec Mendoza Reserva 2009 (89, $18) and Alamos Malbec Mendoza Selección 2009 (87, $20), and both are gutsy yet rich and ready to drink with beef.
Finally, if you prefer something more fruity and zesty with your steak, I think of two wines: California Zinfandel and Spanish Grenache. Often they go better with all the salads and pastas and other crazy Labor Day accoutrements, too. A current Zin favorite is Edmeades Mendocino County 2009 (88, $20), which is jammy and full of flavor. One of the best bargains in the category is the Altovinum Evodia Garnacha Calatayud 2010, which retails for $10 but often sells for less. Then there’s the always-dependable Bodegas Borsao Garnacha Campo de Borja Tres Picos, and the 2010 (90, $17) is one of the best in recent years.
If you can’t find a particular wine, a local retailer can suggest a similar bottle. Do you have a go-to wine when you grill steak? Or maybe there’s something else on your grill this holiday weekend. Care to share?
John Kmiecik — Chicago, IL — August 29, 2012 2:17pm ET
Robert White — Novato, CA — August 29, 2012 3:48pm ET
Russell Quong — Sunnyvale, CA — August 29, 2012 10:52pm ET
Stephen Martin — Paso Robles CA — August 30, 2012 8:54am ET
Peter Vangsness — Springfield, MA — August 31, 2012 3:51pm ET
Giancarlo Ortega — Washington DC — September 3, 2012 10:34pm ET
Ray Ondrejech — San Luis Obispo, CA — September 4, 2012 5:24pm ET
William Matarese — Florida, USA — September 5, 2012 2:00pm ET
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