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Burgers and Red Wine for July Fourth

Tips for making and grilling the tastiest burger, plus 10 recently rated American Cabernets

Laurie Woolever
Posted: June 26, 2009

Next Saturday marks the United States' 233rd birthday, and we recommend celebrating and entertaining American-style, with burgers cooked on the grill and Cabernet Sauvignons from Washington and California. We've put together a list of recently rated American Cabs below, and we've consulted contributing editor Sam Gugino for tips on making the tastiest, juiciest burgers.

The first thing to consider, says Gugino, is how much fat is in the meat. The more fat, the juicier the burger—though the down side is that more fat means more flare-ups, so your best bet would be a 50/50 combination of ground chuck (for fat) and top round, hanger steak or sirloin (for flavor and structure).

Gugino also recommends that, if you don't have the equipment to grind your own meat at home, ask to have it ground to order, whether at your specialty butcher or your local grocery store. The increased juiciness and freshness of the meat, and therefore the burgers, will be well worth a few extra minutes at the counter. And, if at all possible, cook the meat on the day that you buy it.

You can season your burgers with everything from Worcestershire sauce to horseradish to rosemary to truffle oil, but simple kosher salt and freshly ground pepper will do nicely, too, and won't contrast with your condiments or your wine. Use a gentle hand to mix in whatever seasonings you choose, since, as Gugino reminds us, overworking the meat will compact it, resulting in a tough, dense burger. Refrigerating your hamburger patties—which should be about 6 to 8 ounces each—will cut down on crumbling once they hit the grill.

Your gas grill on a high-heat setting will make a great crust on your burger, and if you're grilling with charcoal, try a combination of hardwood, which gives great flavor, and briquettes, which burn longer than hardwood. For medium-rare burgers, Gugino suggests cooking 3 minutes per side. And don't forget to lightly toast the buns before assembling your burgers.

Have a happy and delicious holiday weekend!


WATERBROOK Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley Reserve 2006 Score: 91 | $22
Round and appealing for its ripe cherry and currant flavors and medium-weight frame, which lets this become expressive as the finish lingers. Drink now through 2016. 4,070 cases made. —H.S.

COLUMBIA CREST Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley Grand Estates 2006 Score: 89 | $11
Supple and inviting. A softer style of Cabernet that weaves milk chocolate and spice flavors through the dark berry and currant flavors, mingling effectively on the finish. Drink now through 2012. 200,000 cases made. —H.S.

DUSTED VALLEY Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley Boomtown 2006 Score: 89 | $15
Bright, fresh and exuberant, with nicely focused, vivid currant and spice flavors, hinting at coffee on the expressive finish. Drink now through 2012. 5,000 cases made. —H.S.

THE MAGNIFICENT WINE COMPANY Steak House Columbia Valley 2007 Score: 89 | $10
Smooth and round, with a lovely open feel to the cherry, currant and loamy earth flavors, lingering on the fine-grained finish. Cabernet Sauvignon. Drink now through 2012. 5,000 cases made. —H.S.

CHATEAU STE. MICHELLE Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2006 Score: 87 | $16
Ripe and appealing for its pure currant and plum fruit, resting on a modestly scaled structure. Lingers gently. Drink now through 2012. 166,000 cases made. —H.S.

EARTHWORKS Cabernet Sauvignon Barossa Valley 2007 Score: 87 | $16
Ripe, supple and refined, showing lots of raspberry and other red fruits mixed with sage and spice notes as the finish veers toward savory. This has a nice open feel. Drink now through 2011. 10,000 cases made. —H.S.

GREG NORMAN CALIFORNIA ESTATES Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast 2006 Score: 86 | $15
Firm, with cedary oak wrapped around a core of dried currant, sage and herbal flavors that end with a peppery edge. Drink now through 2011. 17,500 cases made. —J.L.

RANCHO ZABACO Cabernet Sauvignon California Dancing Bull Winemaker's Reserve 2006 Score: 86 | $12
Rich and concentrated, with a straightforward push of earthy dried currant, blackberry, licorice and mineral, ending with integrated tannins. Drink now. 127,000 cases made. —J.L.

BOGLE Cabernet Sauvignon California 2006 Score: 85 | $11
This is rustic and chunky in a good way, offering meaty currant, cedary oak and dried currant fruit that's ripe and chewy. Drink now through 2013. 100,000 cases made. —J.L.

SAGELANDS Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley Four Corners 2006 Score: 85 | $10
On the light side, with pretty currant and pepper aromas and flavors, finishing with a mild grip of tannins. Drink now. 39,950 cases made. —H.S.

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