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The Cellar: Great Wines for Summer Grilling

Saturday, July 14, 2012


You fuss over fresh and quality food to grill... make sure the wine is right as well. The good news is that you can do it for a very reasonable price.

Here we are in July, and it's peak grilling season (and will be for some time now). In addition to having the freshest meats and veggies for your grill, think about stocking up on some delicious (and affordable) wines to accompany them. And what better place to visit for inspiration than the beautiful city of Newport and one of its premier wine merchants - John Callaghan of Bellevue Wine & Spirits. Here, John stocks his shelves with the wines his customers like. Because he services everyone from value-seeking locals to the millionaire yacht owners, don’t be surprised to find a $500 First Growth Bordeaux next to an everyday table wine from Chile. That’s how this place is – refreshingly unpretentious.

2010 Chateau Fage, Graves de Vayres Blanc

France’s Bordeaux region is famous for its big and bold, not to mention expensive, red wines. Unbeknownst to many American wine drinkers, many of the region’s chateaus also produces white wine, an often

inexpensive blend based on the Semillion and Sauvignon Blanc grapes. One of the sub-appellations in Bordeaux, the 1,700 acre area of Graves de Vayres, is known to make great white wines from its stony soil.

The $10 Graves de Vayres Blanc from Chateau Fage, lightly chilled, works great as a ‘welcome aperitif’ or a sipping wine as dinner is being prepped and the grill is heating up. This wine is primarily Semillion, the same grape that, along with Sauvignon Blanc, makes the delicious dessert wines of Sauternes. This wine is very different however. It’s dry, medium-bodied, soft and friendly with delicious citrus flavors alongside notes of ripe gooseberries and elderflower. 

2009 Santa Carolina Reserva Pinot Noir

The wines from Valle Del Maule, part of Chile’s Central Valley, have long been overlooked. Recently, successful experimentations with international grape varietals such as Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir has

placed the spotlight on the region's old-bush, dry-farmed vineyards once again. Chilean wines can be a great value for someone looking to mix things up in the exciting $10 price range.

The 2009 Reserva is 100% Pinot Noir aged 9 months in oak. It displays delicious dark raspberry and spice aromas on the nose and only faint hints of oak. On the palate this medium-bodied wine comes across a little rough displaying little more than sour cherries on the mid-palate. However, the transition to the finish is spectacular with fine earth, licorice and cocoa powder notes. This wine would pair great with any grilled bird or even a rich fish like a salmon or tuna steak.

2007 Gloria’s ‘Old Vine’, Cailin’s Cuvee

Not only does John sell fine wines, he makes them too. This week’s final wine is his own creation; a limited production Zinfandel, Carignan and Petit Sirah blend. The grapes are sourced from Gloria’s ‘Old Vines’ winery

located in Mendocino County’s Redwood Valley. The trip to the winery in which John was set to make the blend had to be canceled at the very last minute. This didn't deter the Callaghans who were dedicated to crafting an '07 vintage in honor of their daughter who was born that year. In the end, samples were flown in and what would be known as Cailin's Cuvee was blended on the Callaghans' kitchen table.

100% Californian Zinfandel is sometimes over-the-top rich, ripe and jammy. In blending in the Carignan and Petit Sirah, John has created a structured, meaty, full-bodied blend with smooth tannins interwoven with the delicious of blackberries and spice. While I know it pairs wonderfully with spicy chorizo, I am sure it can handle any kind of heavy meat off the grill.


Steffen Rasch CSW is ready to answer any wine-related questions, comments or concerns you may have. Feel free to email him at [email protected]. And as always, don’t forget to follow GoLocalProv’s Wine Cellar on Facebook and sign up for one of his tastings through the Providence Wine Academy.


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