Building a Better Burger for Labor Day Reds

What's in your glass and on your bun this weekend?
Aug 28, 2013

I don't eat a lot of hamburgers. I did back in the day, but time, family history and my waistline have conspired against it. So I avoid fast-food hamburgers and hold out for the good stuff.

One of the best burgers I've had in a long time was at Hitching Post II outside Santa Barbara. Featured in the movie Sideways, it's a favorite of winemakers in the area, and a few weeks ago fiendish carnivore Brian Loring brought a crowd that included winemaker and grower Pete Cargasacchi to the Post and I tagged along. Pinot specialist Loring is a regular at the steak house, largely because the only vegetable he eats is lettuce, which he describes as "a blue cheese dressing delivery vehicle." He may be veggie-phobic, but Loring knows a good burger.

I grill a lot but I'm mortified to admit that hamburgers have never been my forte. I make a good one, but seldom a great one. And lordy, how I've tried, but with Labor Day weekend just days away I'm dedicated to changing that. 

While I figure out exactly how I'm going to pull that off (any secrets to share?), I've reviewed my tasting notes for wines that would be ideal with hamburgers this weekend. Whether you like a simple burger or one slathered and stacked high, there's a style of wine for you. Since Labor Day is usually a gathering, I've targeted nine wines that sell for less than $25. You'll find bottles from around the world and all have good distribution around the country.

A to Z Wineworks Pinot Noir Oregon 2011 (90 points, $18) A sleek wine with delicate layers of cherry and cocoa flavors.

d'Arenberg The Stump Jump Red McLaren Vale 2011 (89, $13) A Rhône blend from the Aussies that has juicy plum, spice and mineral flavors.

Dry Creek Zinfandel Sonoma County Heritage 2010 (90, $19) Zesty and spicy, with sage and cherry notes.

Georges Duboeuf Morgon Jean-Ernest Descombes 2011 (91, $20) Like berries freshly picked on a summer day, as colleague Alison Napjus so aptly described it.

M. Chapoutier Côtes du Roussillon-Villages Les Vignes de Bila-Haut 2011 (88, $14) One of my go-to value reds. 

Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Crianza 2009 (89, $15) A good quaff, with sleek cherry and toasty herb notes.

Meiomi Pinot Noir Monterey-Santa Barbara-Sonoma Counties 2011 (92, $22) Yes, an excellent California Pinot for less than $25.          

Ravenswood Zinfandel California Vintners Blend Old Vine 2011 (87, $9) Juicy, jammy and easy-drinking.

Seghesio Zinfandel Sonoma County 2011 (92, $24) Load your burger up for this big and zesty red.

Pairings Holidays / Celebrations Labor Day

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