Wines for Labor Day grilling

Some red wine around the grill is never a bad way to go.
Some red wine around the grill is never a bad way to go. Chicago Tribune

C’mon baby, light your fire. Labor Day, coming Monday, is tied with Memorial Day as the second most popular holiday for grilling. Sixty-two percent of Americans will grill out, according to a survey by the trade group Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association.

The two holidays neatly bookend the summer grilling season, with the Fourth of July in first place with 76 percent.

Why do we grill? More than 70 percent say it’s to improve flavor, with 42 percent say it’s to entertain family and friends.

What do we grill? Burgers (85 percent), steak (80 percent), hot dogs (79 percent) and chicken (73 percent).

What sides do we grill? Corn (41 percent), potatoes (41 percent) and other veggies (32 percent).

The most popular barbecue sauce flavors, the survey said, are hickory, mesquite, honey and spicy-hot.

In northern states, Labor Day marks the approaching end of the summer grilling season with snow possible before long. The South is different, of course. When we grill on Labor Day, we face more weeks of heat, taking solace in the hope that the weather should turn comfortable, if it’s a good year, in time for Halloween. (The West falls between the two somewhere.)

In any case, we need some good wines to go with the grilling.

First, we need some wine for the chef, and for early arriving guests. Ice-cold bubbly is the answer here. Prosecco, maybe. Plunge a couple of bottles into the ice chest.

For the rest of the meal, it gets complicated. Burgers and cheeseburgers need a red wine that’s soft and comfortable, maybe a shiraz, a pinot noir, a malbec, a red blend.

Steaks need bigger, more tannic wines. Cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah are good choices.

Chicken calls for white wine. It doesn’t have to be the same old chardonnay. You can try a pinot grigio.

For sides, grilling vegetables is all the rage today. Just slather a bit of oil on a chunk of Vidalia onion, a big portobello mushroom, slices of zucchini, bell pepper, eggplant, even carrots (big, long ones so they don’t fall through the grill), wedges of cabbage and stalks of romaine lettuce to char for a smoky Caesar salad.

For these, sauvignon blanc with its herbal flavors is a nice choice.

Finally, for dessert, you can grill halved peaches or plums or even pound cake and serve them with a dollop of whipped cream and a nice sweet, lightly sparkling red dessert wine such as Banfi’s Rosa Regale.


▪ 2013 Murphy-Goode Merlot, California (83 percent merlot, 10 percent cabernet sauvignon, 7 percent cabernet franc); aromas and flavors of blueberries and espresso, firm tannins, smooth; $15.

▪ 2015 Trione Sauvignon Blanc, River Road Ranch, Russian River Valley: light and crisp, with aromas and flavors of white grapefruit and minerals; $23.

▪ 2013 Pillar Box Red, Padthaway, Australia (76 percent shiraz, 24 percent cabernet sauvignon): aromas and flavors of black plums and milk chocolate, soft and rich; $15.


▪ 2015 Casillero del Diablo Sauvignon Blanc, Chile: crisp and light, with aromas and flavors of lemons and limes; $11.

▪  2014 Edna Valley Chardonnay, Central Coast (100 percent chardonnay): hint of oak, floral aroma, flavors of pineapples and cloves, rich, full body; $15.

▪ 2015 Alamos Winery Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina (90 percent malbec, 6 percent syrah, 4 percent bonarda): hint of oak, aromas and flavors of black cherries and cinnamon, full body, soft tannins; $13.

▪  2014 Ghost Pines Chardonnay, California; floral aromas, flavors of ripe pairs and spice, crisp and lively; $20.

▪  Nonvintage La Marca Prosecco sparkling wine, Prosecco DOC (glera); lively bubbles, floral aromas, light and crisp, flavors of white grapefruit; $14.

▪  2014 Mirassou Cabernet Sauvignon, California (96 percent cabernet sauvignon, 4 percent other red grapes): hint of oak, aromas and flavors of black cherries an espresso, ripe tannins; $12.

▪  2013 Robert Mondavi Pinot Noir, Napa Valley (100 percent pinot noir): aromas and flavors of black raspberries, spice and earth, soft tannins; $27.

▪  2013 Banfi “Rosa Regale,” Piedmont, Italy (brachetto d'acqui): soft, red and fizzy, with sweet strawberry aromas and flavors; $20.