Star-Spangled Wines: Summer’s Top Vino Selections
Independence Day happens but once a year, but July 4th is essentially the kick-off to a season of summer barbecuing. I would be remiss to ignore beer as both a traditional, aromatically-and-texturally appropriate match for the all-American meal, but this column is about wine! And chances are your date is into it, so keep your ears open.
I wrote a column last year on wines from California and New York. But as a born-and-raised Midwestern girl, I’m happy to remind you there is more to America than two coasts.
During the four years since I moved back from Italy I’ve had the opportunity to taste wines from a number of places. While the majority of them do not appeal to my Old World sensibilities, I appreciate the experience of tasting wine made locally. I am also the first to admit that what tastes great to me will not necessarily taste great to you, and there is a reason that certain places produce wines of a certain flavor profile.
No matter where you are dating, you’re bound to meet someone from somewhere else. And if the first few dates go well, you’re bound to take him or her along to some outdoor eating extravaganza this summer. There’s no reason to pair Rioja with pork ribs unless you’re sentimentally attached to a particular bottle. On the other hand, rich and fruit-heavy reds from places like Texas and Missouri will more than do the trick.
While visiting my old college roommate in Dallas, I picked up a few bottles from the winery at Becker Farms. What started with a couple looking to get back to nature in Texas Hill Country is now a 100,000-bottle production with a remarkable following. Their wines are served at the White House and the James Beard House, as well as houses of Texans in the know. The property is lush and loved, with peach orchards, hay fields and lavender production.
Their wines reflect a European mentality (careful oak treatment, clean pure flavors), but there’s no denying the heat and richness of their terroir. Cabernet-Syrah blends and Merlot are seething with dark red fruit and work like barbecue sauce with a plate of burgers or ribs right off the grill. Their award-winning Viognier is practically an edible bouquet. Serve the honey and wildflower scented white wine alongside grilled chicken and fish rubbed in Caribbean spices.
My own birth state of Missouri shocked me pleasantly during my last trip home. The state grape, Norton is native to the United States and thrives in the clay-rich alluvial river valleys of the Show Me State. I tried an older bottle of Norton from Augusta Winery with both fresh Parmesan cheese and a roast rabbit dish. In both cases the wine was just juicy enough to balance the salt and savory qualities without overbearing.
The newer releases from Augusta are even fresher and taste great chilled. That’s right, you can serve your red wine cool – and you absolutely should if you plan to drink it outside under the blazing sun, or beside a red-hot fire pit.
If you can’t get your hands on these, ask your favorite wine shop to recommend something local. It’s important to let go of our preconceptions and pretensions about wine (and everything else) every once in a while – and there’s no better time than the 4th of July.