Remember the “good old days” of outdoor barbequing? Assemble a stack of charcoal briquettes in the grill, saturate them with lighter fluid, set it aflame, and, more often than not, burn the food to a crisp. Then serve with your favorite six-pack of domestic beer and Kool-Aid for the kids.

Today’s barbequing and outdoor grilling routine is often a major undertaking with glistening, stainless-steel, multi-burner propane and ceramic charcoal grills and menus loaded with racks of beef ribs, kabobs, and pork in every way, shape or form.

Fortunately, wines have also increasingly become a part of the grilling culture; and good wines not only complement practically anything cooked on the barbeque or grill, they add a measure of good taste to any meal that’s prepared or served outdoors.

For Starters

Have a glass of something sparkling ready for guests as they walk through the door; it’s a great way to begin a barbeque-themed event. These wines make an excellent aperitif, and often pair well with grilled prawns, salads or a variety of creamy dips and spreads
on crostini.

The “Dress Code” Collection by Zonin 1821 offers three Prosecco choices using the Glera grape in striking, colored bottles that make excellent event-starter wines at about $17 each.

The White Edition utilizes a bit of Pinot Bianco and features ample flavors of green pear and citrus, with super-fine bubbles that resemble a frizzante-style sparkler; the Grey Edition is blended with a touch of Pinot Grigio, giving the wine a nice minerality component to complement the Fuji apple flavors; and the Black Edition, with 10-percent Pinot Noir, is filled with more crisp apple flavors that lead to a slightly edgy, faintly sweet finish.

The Main Event

Grilled salmon is a Pacific Northwest favorite, and there may be no better wine-pairing partner for this regional seafood specialty than Pinot Noir.

For starters, consider the Willamette Valley Vineyards 2015 Rosé of Pinot Noir (about $24). This big, flavorful rosé is packed with vibrant melon and wild strawberry flavors and capped with a touch of spicy lychee on a crisp finish. Another noteworthy Oregon wine is the Durant Vineyards 2013 La Paloma Pinot Noir (about $35). Lovely aromatics of red cherry carry over to the palate before melting into cranberry and then darker black cherry flavors. There’s a touch of smoky chocolate accentuated by the grape’s signature acidity on the finish. Outstanding!

When burgers, brats, or steaks are on the barbeque menu, a hearty red wine is a must. Walla Walla wineries really shine in this area, offering plenty of flavorful, expressive options that should keep any red wine lover happy.

La Monarcha Winery not only provides affordable wines for your barbeque, it offers a newly-released portable option that allows you to take your wines anywhere in a recyclable bag. Holding 1.5 liters of wine, the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (about $22) displays plenty of red berry fruit, good acidity and a touch of herbaceousness that will complement grilled meats. For white wine drinkers, a 2014 Chardonnay (about $19) is also available in the same handy container.

Walla Walla winemaker Marie-Eve Gilla has crafted another stunning red wine with her Forgeron Cellars 2012 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (about $35). Beautiful field berry aromas start you off, with fruit-forward black plum and cassis flavors, a flourish of cinnamon-spice, and a soft finish with toasted oak accents. It’s an elegant and delicious addition to any outdoor meal.

Another amazing Walla Walla wine is the Rulo Winery 2012 Syrah (about $30). Husband-and-wife winemakers Kurt and Vicki Schlicker continue their mastery of this grape by offering a drop-dead gorgeous Syrah that will leave you smiling. Blueberry and blackberry aromas and flavors fill the glass, and the fruit is seamlessly balanced by slightly textured, yet velvety tannins. Bring on some beef or enjoy this exceptional wine simply on its own.

If you’re planning on grilling something a little more gamey such as lamb, elk or venison, you’ll need an even bigger red wine to match the flavors of the food.

Try the C. Mondavi & Family 2013 Purple Heart (about $20), a powerful blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. Dark fruits predominate, with ample tannins, crushed herbs and burnt caramel on the finish. The wine is named for the Purple Heart Foundation, an organization benefiting military personnel in need. Also look for the 2014 vintage, scheduled for release this fall.

At the top of the food chain is the Collepiano 2010 Sagrantino Di Montefalco (about $54). This intensely colored, intensely flavored Italian wine explodes with vanilla bean aromas, flavors of black currant, fig, and anise, and a splash of smoky green tea on the finish. Grippy tannins require plenty of aeration, but the payoff is a huge red wine that should stand up to anything on the grill.

After the Fire

Fresh fruit such as apples, pears, pineapple or peaches make excellent, yet simple dessert choices when you pop them on the grill. Serve them with a slightly sweeter wine and you’ve
got a tasty, sure-to-please food and wine combination.

A special dessert wine worth considering is the Boutari 2009 Vinsanto (about $48) from Greece. Made primarily from the Assyrtiko grape, it displays a dark amber color, white raisin and toasted hazelnut flavors, and an ultra-long, honey-like finish. This “liquid baklava” for adults should pair with grilled fruit desserts and provide a fitting finalé to the meal.

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"Fortunately, wines have also increasingly become a part of the grilling culture."