Independence and Nonconformity Trumps Traditionalism – Happy Fourth of July!

When celebrating the founding of this nation it is sad how many of us tend to do a pretty damn boring job of it. I mean really, are burgers and hot dogs the celebratory foods we want to commemorate the birth of our nation? I think not! This 4thof July I suggest we all step outside the box and cook our hearts out to signify how much we love our country. The following reviews cover wines that will pair well with more elaborate culinary creations.

If you choose to show your family and friends you are a real American, who is not afraid of being different by drinking great American wine and grilling or smoking quintessentially American cuisine you will be applauded. Nothing says patriotism like an independent hospitalitarian who refuses to conform by drinking mass produced lagers from Milwaukee or St. Louis to wash down their traditional 4thof July fare of hot dogs and hamburgers.

2011 Stepping Stone “Corallina” Napa Valley Syrah Rose

The Stepping Stone Rose is not produced using the Saignée method. The fruit, sourced from cool climate Syrah grapes are picked a bit early to insure a crisp bright fruit driven flavor with plenty of acidity to stand up to and cut through any luscious fattiness from summertime smoked or grilled meat, fowl or fish. This component also allows this wine to be a perfect accompaniment to full flavored cheeses too. The wine is fermented to a bone-dry consistency, and then aged on oak for six months to add complexity. Initial aromas begin floral with rose petals mingling with the smell of strawberries so ripe they would melt if you touched them. In the background, there is a citrus note rounding out the parade. Bright juicy red fruit and a little creaminess obtained while barrel aged makes this wine dance on your palate. The racy refreshing crispness provided by the backbone of acidity powers this package to a pleasurable finish. I tried something different to pair with this wine. Taking the traditional pairing of proscuitto and melon, wrapping the ham tightly around the melon then skewered them before grilling on a high heat grill just long enough to make some grill marks and imparting a little smoke flavor to the proscuitto. Bacon and chive deviled eggs or smoked salmon mascarpone mousse on an herbed crostini also paired fantastically with this top-notch Napa Rose.

Rating: Excellent (90) | $20 | 14.1% ABV

Continuing with the theme of non-conformity for your Independence Day celebration, I am recommending two wines that are American blends of grapes that are traditionally considered Bordeaux blends and a single varietal wine whose grape origins are French. The French connection figures prominently in our struggle for Independence. Many Americans have little or no idea how much France helped us in obtaining our freedom from England.

2008 Cimarone ”Le Clos Secret” Three Creek Vineyard Santa Ynez Red Blend

This is one of those wines whose blend obtains a singular expression where the final blend exceeds the sum of its parts. The aromas are expressive and the flavors are refined. There are very unusual notes of greenness on the nose due to the massively fragrant Cabernet Franc that dominates this wine; think pine trees and forest fauna. The classically flavored blend of Bordeaux varietals produced in Santa Ynez lends some oomph to this wonderfully spicy vibrant wine. The finish is all finesse, no fooling, a very serious wine worth seeking out.

Rating: Excellent (91) | $40 | 14.5% ABV

2008 Dry Creek “The Mariner” Dry Creek Valley Sonoma Meritage

As with previous vintages, this Cabernet, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc blend is impressive with big aromas and flavors. Full-bodied and ripe with flavors of black fruits, vanilla and spice; finishes long and luscious. Good tannins and well balanced. This wine begs for cuisine that goes beyond the boundaries usually framed by wines of this pedigree.

Rating: Excellent (90) | $40 | 14.5% ABV

2008 William Knuttel “La Tentadora “Alexander Valley Sonoma Malbec

This producer is known to make awesome wines and this one is very good. It is another great expression of a varietal of French origin that obtains a uniquely American flavor profile when grown here. It brings to the table flavor that tends to be a lot more complex than many of those Malbec’s from Argentina. Dark berry aromas dominate the nose and the lush berry and spice theme keeps rolling as the flavor train pulls into the station, bringing a balanced lush finish to the overall experience.

Rating: Very Good (89) | $29 | 14.5% ABV

All three wines will pair with big bold cuisine. The spicy, fruity, and elegantly expansive flavor profiles can conquer almost anything you want to serve as long as it is coming off the grill or out of a smoker. Herb stuffed leg of lamb grilled over hickory or cherry wood will work. Grilled Portobello mushrooms stuffed with bacon and corn hash is unique and you only have to remove the bacon for a vegetarian version or substitute pastrami for bacon if you want to go Kosher. Beef Tri-tip lightly smoked Santa Maria style would be a huge hit on the 4thof July too.

For a bit more traditional style of a wine that goes with outdoor grilling try the two wines below. They will not make you reach into your pocket too deep and they are good quality wines available almost everywhere. Although this grape did not originate here, it’s not grown anywhere else under that name and you can’t find a more American grape. We just received two samples from Ravenswood and the timing could not have been better to get the word out to you in time for your summertime grilling.

2009 Ravenswood Old Vine Lodi Zinfandel

This winery has been the torchbearer for California Zinfandel for decades. Their slogan used to be “No Wimpy Wines” and they could be counted on to produce wines that might not appeal to everyone but if you appreciated the slogan you would appreciate the wine. This 2009 from the Lodi appellation is a wine that will have mass appeal for its fruity, hint of spice, aromatic properties and pleasantly forward dark brambly fruit, cedar box and a touch of vanilla bean flavors. It picks up just a little heat on the finish.

Rating: Very Good (87) | $15 | 14.5% ABV

2009 Ravenswood Old Vine Sonoma Zinfandel

This is another zinfandel from Ravenswood’s Old Vine series. This one will have even more mass appeal than maybe even the Vintners Blend made by this producer. The blackberry aromas that mingle with the smell of melted dark chocolate are appealing. In the mouth, the prevalent flavors are plum, black cherry, cinnamon spice and vanilla. The texture is soft and plush with a pleasing finish.

Rating: Good (86) | $15 | 14.5% ABV

The last two wines reviewed will work well if you decide to go with the traditional Fourth of July fare and will go well with real smoked BBQ brisket, pulled pork or ribs. And the sides should be cole slaw, southern style collard greens and the most all American dish I can think of—Mac and Cheese. Enjoy the fireworks!

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About the Author:

Marc has held almost every position in the food & wine industry and is committed to Celebrating Hospitality with Pride. In addition to being the co-founder and editor-at-large for Enobytes, Marc is a wine blogger contributor to (Wine Bytes) and writes the Wine Knowledge column in the print magazine About Face. The Contra Costa County Times, San Jose Mercury News, Tacoma Times Tribune and Washington Post have either interviewed or quoted Marc on his viniferous and culinary opinions. Marc has also appeared on Portland's "Vine Time" on News Radio 750 KXL and on California's Central Coast "From the Growing of the Grape to the Glass" on KUHL-AM 1410. He is also the author of A History of Pacific Northwest Cuisine: Mastodons to Molecular Gastronomy. While continuing to tenaciously search for what he may finally proclaim as his favorite wine Marc is relentless in his quest for the ultimate food and wine experience.

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  1. […] from that warmer area…” And our 2008 was christened with 91 points and written up by Marc Hinton of Enobytes, “This is one of those wines whose blend obtains a singular expression where the final blend […]

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