Wines for the Labor Day Barbecue

By Ryan Snyder on August 29, 2006

Category: Winegeeks Opinions

The days are growing shorter and the summer rays will soon be giving way to the changing leaves and bone-chilling breezes. Labor Day may be our last chance to light up the grill without having to put a snow suit on first, so with that idea in mind I asked the Winegeeks writers what they would be grilling up and chugging down this holiday weekend.

Which wines will you serve with your Labor Day barbecue?

E. S. Brown

I like to start simple. Shrimp plus lime juice plus mango salsa afterwards equals awww yeeahhh. Add to this equation a juicy and crackling Riesling Kabinett from the Mosel or Rheingau in Germany and we have a culinary computation that always is the right answer. The meaty shrimp pick up a little smoky caramelized note, which is accentuated by the fresh lime and the fruity salsa. A fine Kabinett can boast all of these flavors and tends to be low in alcohol too, which is a good thing on a long, hot summer evening.

Moving on, next up is my buddy Ryan's now famous Beer-Can Chicken which is hit with a little dry-rub love just before its long slow journey towards deliciousness. This is always a winner out on the grill, and goes great with beer. Duh! But it also works with a wide range of medium-bodied red wines, from spicy Spanish Garnacha to Languedoc blends to Zinfandels that haven't been killed with fruit. In fact, a sturdy Zin that offers more pepper and spice than jam can be a fantastic choice for grilled goodies.

Last but not least- dessert. Late summer peaches touched with a little balsamic, licked with flames and given a crumble of blue cheese is a special August treat around the Midwest. Georgia may be famous for their peaches, but those in Ohio aren't bad either. We tried this last week with a late-harvest Pinot Noir rosé from Germany and it was sublime, but I think just about any dessert-style wine would pair nicely with the peaches.

That being said, Labor Day is my birthday and I plan on surrounding myself with friends and hoisting a few margaritas at the local taco joint. Hey, we've had all summer to grill out right?

Matthew Citriglia

A traditional Ohio barbecue includes massive amounts of ribs, chicken quarters and sweet corn roasted in the husk right on the coals. The typically style of barbecue here tends to be either a tomato or mustard based sauce infused with something sweet such as molasses or honey that gives way to a blast of heat from cayenne, Tabasco or for the real freaks, like myself, Red Savina Habanero. Although I really enjoy a ripe German Spätlase to refresh the palate from all the spice and sauce, there is something about a barbecue that gets the testosterone flowing and the need for a manly beefy red.

Every summer I try a variety of manly reds with my barbecue. Zin has been the winning beverage of choice in years past, but I this year I found a new king for my grill, Argentinean Malbec! The wine reasonably priced making it ideal for mass consumption. As well, it has just enough acid to marry with the sauce allowing the dense, sweet, spicy, fruit of the wine to rough house with the flavors ribs and sauce. This is full contact "food and wine" for that food geek that happens to be an adrenaline junky, like myself.

Dana Pickell

When it comes to late summer barbequing, I’m shifting from my love of quaffable pink rosés to something a bit heartier. Autumn is coming, and my palate is ready for a change. Malbec is my wine of choice when the ‘cue is fired up at this time of year. Be it inky, sumptuous Cahors or chocolaty, coffee-scented juice from Argentina, Malbec is a varietal that is a great pairing for what I’ll be grilling this Labor Day. The menu will consist of portabella burgers flame-grilled with sharp smoked cheddar and roasted red peppers... wild salmon roasted on a cedar plank accompanied by stewed huckleberries and charred carrots... and grilled figs topped with mascarpone cheese to finish.

Ryan Snyder

When I offer wine recommendations for friends who are having a barbecue, the first thing I’m usually asked is, “Why don’t we just drink beer?” My brother scoffs at the idea of consuming anything that doesn’t come in a can labeled The King of Beers (or as he calls it, Bud Heavy). I have nothing against consuming a 6-pack of frothy goodness, but when I pull out the grill this Labor Day weekend, I’m not going to throw any Oscar Meyer wieners on the hot iron grate.

I’ll be cooking up chicken marinated in olive oil and herbs de Provence, albacore tuna steaks to be sliced and placed atop salad Niçoise and aluminum foil-wrapped beets topped with goat cheese. It’s still too hot to order up a bottle of red, so the peppery, medium-bodied Viognier will be the ideal pairing for this Provençal-inspired menu. When everybody’s stuffed silly, all apologies to the Viognier, but she’ll be put away in favor of Moscato d’Asti for vanilla bean ice cream topped with fresh berries.