As grilling season gets underway in these still-cool evenings of spring, I think about substantial red wines that can hold their own when paired with grilled beef and lamb, wines that won’t be intimidated by well-seasoned meats and a little char around the edges.
On evenings like this, with the grill heating up and a chill in the air, I am drawn to California and its big, Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines from Napa and Sonoma. One that fits the bill perfectly is a winning blend called The Mariner from Dry Creek Vineyard in the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma County.
The Dry Creek Valley, a 13-mile-long sliver running north by northwest, was revived in part by the founding of Dry Creek Vineyard by David Stare back in 1972. While the area is known for its robust Zinfandels, the still-family-owned Dry Creek Vineyard excels as well with Bordeaux varieties and blends, of which The Mariner is a signature offering.
The $50 wine (this is a bottle to start off the evening to impress your guests) is a classic Bordeaux blend of 69 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 12 percent Petit Verdot, 9 percent Merlot, 8 percent Malbec, and 2 percent Cabernet Franc.
It’s a dense wine with lush, dark fruit notes of blackcurrant and cassis with touches of black licorice and graphite. Nineteen months of barrel aging, 40 percent in new oak, gives the wine a round undertone of cedar and a spicy accent. Ample acidity keeps it from being ponderous despite listed alcohol of 14.5 percent.
Which brings me back to the grilling, and some wonderful skirt steaks we’ve been enjoying recently, with their gamey flavors and succulent layering of fat and meat. The Mariner would be a natural for this and many other hearty meat dishes.
By the way, “The Mariner” — and Dry Creek’s sailing-inspired labels — are a reflection of the Stare family’s love of sailing and, of course, wine.