John Brown has been a wine and food columnist in West Virginia since the 1980’s. His regular columns appear in the Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail under the title Vines & Vittles and in The State Journal - a statewide business weekly

Summertime wines and picnic foods

Last time, I regaled you with my version of wine and food pairings and today I’ll continue along that theme line with a little more emphasis on summertime wines.

Once the weather moderates, some people’s thoughts turn to gardening or even golf. Not mine. Summertime gets me (and my trusty old Weber) fired up to start grilling various hunks of meat and/or vegetables, and accompanying these tasty delights with picnic-style wines that refresh the body and the calm the spirit.

I’m not talking about altar wine here! No sireee Bob. I’m suggesting lighter-bodied whites and reds that fit the casual feel of outdoor cooking as well as pair terrifically with grilled foods. These lighter-style wines also benefit from a little chilling, particularly the reds, which will provide a refreshing counterpoint to the sometimes spicy entrees being prepared.

How about a crisp, herbaceous sauvignon blanc with herbal-suffused foods such as salmon with dill or grilled asparagus, or even a pesto of parsley and garlic over linguine? Look for lively sauvignon blancs from Nobilo, Alan Scott, Caymus, Groth, Estancia, Kenwood, St. Michelle, or Sterling that are wonderful accompaniments to these types of foods.

Sangiovese and pinot noir are my choices for red wines in the warm months, particularly when matched with grilled lamb. Whether you choose a boned and butter flied leg, chops or – my favorite – rack of lamb, these wines do not over-power the food, but rather compliment and enhance the flavors. From Tuscany, try wines such as Villa Banfi Centine and Monte Antico, as well as Chianti producers such as Monsanto, Fossi, Cecchi, Brolio, and Nozzole.

Light to medium bodied pinot noirs are also great choices for grilled chicken, lamb or beef dishes such as flank steak. Try wines from these producers: Carneros Creek, Chalone, Foris, Eveham Wood, La Crema and Monterey Vineyard.

Among the best choices for picnic fare is rose’ which can be used as both an aperitif and as an accompaniment to foods such as hot dogs, hamburgers or grilled sausages of all types. Some of my favorites include, Masciarelli Rose, Domain Lafond Tavel Rose, Bonny Doon Big House Pink, Tempier Bandol Rose and Mulderbosch Rose of Cabernet.

A Summertime Recipe Okay, so here’s a recipe for a lovely grilled vegetable and pasta dish that would marry just about any of the wines mentioned above. Start with two large, sweet red peppers, which you will cut in, half lengthwise and core. Rub the peppers with olive oil, salt and pepper and garlic and then grill them over charcoal until they are scorched and limber – yet not limp.

Put the peppers aside and in a pan sauté a tablespoon of minced garlic, half a cup of parsley, one-half cup of onions and two tablespoons of chopped proscuitto or pancetta (Italian bacon). In another pot, bring two-cups of chicken or beef broth to a boil, and add one-half pound of orzo (the little pasta that looks like rice). Lower the heat and add the onions, garlic, etc. into the mixture and stir slowly on low to medium heat until the pasta is tender. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.

Once the orzo is cooked add one-half cup of grated parmesan cheese and then stuff the red peppers with the mixture. Top the peppers off with a little mozzarella and put them into a 325-degree oven for ten to fifteen minutes and serve. You may accompany this dish with grilled lamb or chicken or eat it as a stand-along meal. Bon Appetit!

Monterey County Wines
Some favorite food and wine pairings

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