While summer whites and rosés dominate the patio sipping, it's the big, bold, mature reds that give greatness to grilling.
Steaks, burgers, sweet Italian sausage, kielbasa, pork chops and other meats are a perfect match for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and red blends.
Remember, the thicker or "heavier" the meat, the bigger the wine pairing.
Tannins found in red wines help to enhance the experience. They are polyphenolic compounds originating in grape seeds, skins and stems, and produce a drying sensation on the tongue. The longer the pressed juice sits in contact with the skins in the fermentation process, the deeper the tannic characteristics generated into the wine. Tannins serve as antioxidants to protect the wine and make it age-worthy.
Naturally, there are health benefits for wine drinkers from the antioxidants.
So drinking red wine in moderation isn't going to harm you.
That said, here are several thick-skinned reds that have bowled me over recently.
- 2012 Blueprint Lail Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, $62 -- The vintage year launched a great streak for Napa Valley grape growers and winemakers, and this deep, purple-colored Bordeaux-styled blend captures the elegance of lush black cherry fruit and smooth tannins. Velvety from sip to swallow, it delivers layers of savory flavors and finishes with persistence. Fresh for a thick filet, hollandaise sauce, porcini mushrooms and baked potato.
- 2012 William Hill Estate Coastal Collection Cabernet Sauvignon, $13 -- From the Silverado Trail comes another Napa Valley release with a solid dark cherry fruit profile and savory herbs. A touch of Merlot adds to the velvety mouthfeel. A good sirloin companion. William Hill also produces a premium Benchmark brand selling for three times the price of this collection.
- 2012 Leviathan Red Wine, $48 -- It's just now coming into its own with powerful bursts of ripe fruit and aromas. It's unique, just the way winemaker Andy Erickson envisioned this singular California blend to be. Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot create a jammy, spicy, succulent wine. It holds nothing back and remains exquisite on the palate. One of the best reds I've tried this summer and worth every penny of the price.
- 2008 Barbaresco Cantina del Pino, $38 -- It's 8 years old and just beginning to wake up a bit. Classic Nebbiolo gives this a coarse structure, but it softened a bit with an hour's decanting. It opened up like a bouquet of violets. Rich blackberry and raspberry penetrated the palate, and went deep on the finish. Hard to resist with sausage-stuffed lasagna layered in aged parmesan cheese. No grilling required.
- 2007 Il Valentiano Campo di Marzo Brunello di Montalcino, $32 -- One of the least expensive Brunellos from Tuscany from an estate that keeps improving with each vintage. It mixes cherry, cola, orange rind and a whole lot of earthiness on a smooth frame. The finish is dry and pleasant. Not as robust as some, but still a good veal chop companion.
- 2014 Cusamano Nero D'Avola, $12 -- A Sicilian workhorse and everyday ruby red wine for hearty stews, Italian cuisine or any grilled burgers or shaved steak sandwiches. Full of plum and black fruit, there's an impression of sweetness on the palate and yet it finishes dry and peppery. A barbecue bargain if there ever was one.