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Fiery Reds for the Memorial Day Grill

What are you opening for your holiday feast
Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: May 20, 2015 10:00am ET

When I was a kid in the Midwest, fish came two ways: from a can or deep-fried. Sometimes it was both. Chicken was mostly fried in an iron skillet and rarely seen on the backyard grill. We were carnivores, beef and pork, especially when it came time to fire up the barbecue.

My grandfather was a butcher and worked six and a half days a week at the corner grocery he owned. So when it came to Memorial Day, he spoiled himself (and us) by bringing over a load of steak and hamburger.

All these years later, Memorial Day is still all about beef for me: hamburgers, steak, ribs, roast or brisket. (Did I leave anything out?) That, of course, means red, red wine.

If price is no concern, I'm betting you have a good idea of what you're opening on Memorial Day. Collectors are a decisive bunch. Perchance you do need an idea anyway, WineSpectactor.com subscribers can check out the newest 95- to 100-point wines. I seldom overthink the wine when I'm grilling for a holiday. I'd rather kick back and focus on friends and family. Typically, I open a spread of reds so everyone can find their comfort zone.

Cabernets and Merlots are a must, and I'm a Zinfandel nut so I think it's ideal for just about any red meat cooked over a flame. Ditto with Côtes du Rhônes and similar Rhône-style blends, and reds from Portugal and South America do the trick as well.

And then there's Pinot Noir. Gotta have Pinot for the fanatics … and to keep the chef happy while I'm grilling.

I put together a short list of wines that will keep every outdoor gathering humming. Each of them cost $20 or less and have good availability, and if you can't find a specific wine at your local retailer, ask if they stock something similar. WineSpectactor.com subscribers can read more detailed reviews by clicking the links.

And please share your own favorite reds for Memorial Day.

Alamos Malbec Mendoza Selección 2012 (89 points, $20)
Supple and well-structured flavors of red currant and sandalwood flavors

Bogle Merlot California 2012 (88, $10)
Offers supple and easygoing black cherry flavors

Càntele Salice Salentino Riserva 2011 (89, $15)
Juicy flavors of ripe wild strawberry and red licorice

Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon Horse Heaven Hills H3 2012 (92, $15)
Dark and spicy with plum and white tea notes and a refined finish

Dry Creek Zinfandel Sonoma County Heritage Vines 2013 ($20)
A zesty red that's loaded with lively raspberry and smoky sage notes

E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône 2011 (88, $20)
Hard to beat this wine for value. Offers succulent dark cherry and tobacco accents

Joao Portugal Ramos Alentejo Ramos Reserva 2012 (90, $13)
Lots of power and lift here with black olive and dried plum flavors

Layer Cake Pinot Noir Central Coast 2013 (88, $15)
Fresh and vibrant with dense berry and toasty oak, flavors

Sofia Red Paso Robles 2013 (88, $19)
A Rhône-style blend that sleek and easy to drink.

Mark Lyon
Sonoma, California —  May 20, 2015 7:57pm ET
It's time to dust off and fire up the grill! Also, serving in more "family style" with a platter of what's grilled with a large bowl of Salad. Sauvignon Blanc to both drink while grilling and to serve with a Caesar's Salad. A more "berryish" flavored red such as California Zinfandel or Spanish Tempranillo with what's grilled. If it's fish being grilled, then a Pinot Noir.

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