Summertime…and the grilling is easy. So what’s for dinner tonight? A thick, juicy steak? Most people think “steak” and automatically reach for a California Cabernet. And if a Cab is your go-to wine for steak, you are on the right wine and food pairing track. Steak needs a a wine with enough acidity and tannin to cut through the fat, which typically means a higher-acid, higher-tannin red wine. You will also want a wine with enough body to match the texture of the steak as well as the charring method of its preparation. And finally, you may want to pick up some of the spice in the steak’s marinade in the wine. Red wine such as Cabernet or Merlot can be spicy. Yet, this coming weekend, why not consider richer, more perfumed alternatives such as California Zinfandel, Petit Verdot, or Petite Sirah?
Recently Antoine Favero, winemaker at California’s Mazzocco winery in Healdsburg, California, sent me several new releases from Mazzocco’s many single vineyards in the Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys. Most of the vineyards are located in mountainous regions above the valley, where old vines thrive into longevity and young vines show extraordinary promise – especially with steak!
Two of the newly released Zinfandels are the 2006 Dry Creek Valley from the Maple Vineyard, and the 2006 Dry Creek Valley from the Pony Vineyard. If you are new to wine, you may find it curious that the same grape from two neighboring vineyards can taste so different, though both are great partners with steak. The Pony Reserve is sumptuous, elegant, and highly perfumed, perhaps reflecting they way the grapes were grown on a terraced vineyard. With its lush aromatics and high acidity, this wine is a great pairing with a slightly fattier steak with a fruit-based marinade. In contrast, the Maple Reserve is much leaner, with more sharpness and finesse on the palate.