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Right wines will seal the grill deal

Among summer's myriad gifts (tomatoes, peaches, bare shoulders), the re-emergence of the barbecue is perhaps my favorite. Sure, gas grill owners can step out and grill up some dinner year-round, but a weekend party based on a hot grill, some good food and your best friends is difficult to top.

Grilling is one of the simplest, most satisfying ways to cook, and whether you're a full-blown carnivore blazing up the steaks or you favor somewhat lighter fare such as fish or vegetable kabobs, there's a wine out there that can make the whole affair just, well, peachy.

There are literally hundreds of wines that go well with grilled food; the following merely represent some personal picks.

In the white category, expand your tasting experience with the Ca' del Solo Malvasia Bianca 2002 ($14). Malvasia is mostly known as a grape varietal used in the fortified wines of Madeira, but this version shows what the grape is capable of on its own. With an expressive nose of lime flowers and jasmine, it almost seems like it should be sweet, but in the mouth it's well-balanced with great acidity, making a perfect match with spicy foods (such as Korean BBQ spare ribs) or grilled seafood and poultry.

Another appealing Ñ and this one's local Ñ white is the Sokol Blosser Evolution ($13), a blend of nine grape varietals ranging from pinot gris to semillon to Riesling (look for more on blended wines from the Willamette Valley soon). This wine is not vintage-designated; instead, they call this most recent release the '7th Edition.' Past editions have been, to my taste, overly sweet and a bit unbalanced, but this offering has a great blend of ripe fruit and snappy acidity. There are tons of tropical fruit notes in the nose, particularly passion fruit, and the wine has good body without feeling too weighty. The finish is sharp; this is a super wine for cutting through any spicy BBQ sauce or simply complementing the strong, simple flavors of the grill.

For a hearty red that's not overwhelming, seek out the 2 Brothers 2001 Big Tattoo Red ($12). Made from a blend of cabernet sauvignon, syrah and merlot, this Chilean offering is custom made for grilled meats and warm nights. With an inviting nose of savory herbs and mint and deep core of dark berries and earthiness, it's a crowd pleaser. While not a complicated wine, it shows well-integrated tannins and good balance throughout.

Wines made with the barbera grape are known for their lighter style and bright fruit and acidity. All of these things make for a perfect warm weather choice, and a new favorite is the Cascinacastle't Barbera d' Asti 2001 ($14). Besides having a great label, the wine boasts fruit on the nose, with notes of crushed berries and currants and hints of baking spices. The trademark acidity is present, and the wine's structure is enhanced by its young tannins. Drink this one while thinking of hot breezes through the piazza and the hum of the city off in the distance.

Note: Wine fans may notice that there's not any rosŽ on my short list. Fear not. Next week's column will feature an all-star line up of serious pink wines. No insipid, overly sweet numbers, my picks can all hold their own with the best hot-weather white wines out there.

Contact Otis Rubottom at

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