Pause to remember, celebrate veterans with cookout favorites

| Tuesday, May 21, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Memorial Day — a time to enjoy picnics and cook outs with tasty wines and beers.

But it also marks a day for remembrance of the sacrifices of the soldiers who died while serving.

In my youth, folks called it Decoration Day. Families gathered in reunions over the long weekend and visited the cemeteries to clean grave markers and plant flowers.

I recall visiting Union Cemetery in Arnold with my maternal grandfather, a World War I doughboy veteran. We dutifully pulled weeds from around the family tombstones before turning the damp, loamy earth in preparation for planting geraniums. All around, a sea of small American flags fluttered in the brisk wind and bright sunshine to mark veterans' graves.

Afterward, back home, we'd enjoy a simple picnic of grilled hot dogs and burgers — an enduring, tried and true menu.

This year, whatever your Memorial Day traditions and fare, take time to remember those who cared for you and those who cared for our country by making the ultimate sacrifice.

Enjoy the following wines with your holiday cookout:

France's Bordeaux region produces more red wine than any region in the world. But Bordeaux dry white wines also bear close consideration. Lesser-known producers committed to quality offer terrific value on delicious whites with tremendous versatility with food. For a case on point, enjoy the tasty 2011 Château Bellevue Entre Deux Mers, France (Luxury 32721; Chairman's Selection on sale, $9.99).

“Entre Deux Mers” or “Between Two Seas” refers to the vineyards' location on the triangular land bracketed by the Dordogne and Garonne rivers. Here, sauvignon blanc and sémillon vines grow in clay and limestone soils with just enough sunshine to yield distinct fruit retaining vibrant acidity.

The Amécourt family, Château Bellevue's owners, ferments the fruit to highlight ripe grapefruit and mango aromas and flavors. Bracing acidity adds refreshing zest. The dry, yet round and fruity, finish lingers pleasantly. Pair this tasty wine with grilled swordfish with a mango and citrus marinade. Highly recommended.

Randall Grahm, a self-proclaimed “provocateur, punster, philosopher and winemaker,” consistently delivers California wines of personality and distinction. The 2010 Bonny Doon Vineyard “My Favorite” Roussanne, Beeswax Vineyard, Arroyo Seco, Calif. (Luxury 32637; Chairman's Selection on sale, $13.99) illustrates perfectly.

First, take the grape, roussanne. While widely planted in France's northern Rhône Valley, it certainly does not enjoy wide domestic recognition. Not to worry. Grown in Arroyo Seco's sunny, wind-whipped and chilly terroir , the variety yields exquisite fruit, the sine qua non for intriguing wine.

Grahm has the sense not to futz with the crop in the winery. Don't look for excessive aging in oak barrels here. Rather, the fruit's lovely aromas and flavors unfold naturally and unaffected.

Enticing honey, pear and floral perfumes waft from the glass. Rich, ripe apricot and honey-kissed flavors counter more angular quince hints. Bright acidity, refreshing mineral notes and subtle creaminess balance and frame the fruity, yet dry, finish. Pair it with chicken grilled with Asian spices or Vietnamese Pho chicken soup and tofu with Thai basil. Highly recommended.

Authentic, red-blooded American zinfandels should be unaffected, easy-drinking, juicy reds. Nowadays, many Zins lose their soul and charm by trying too hard to something more.

They carry excessive alcohol, reaching well over 15 percent. Worse yet, concentrated flavors and excessive new-oak notes render the wines virtually undrinkable. For good measure, they often carry high price tags and heavy, inconvenient bottles. Leave such wines to folks with more money than brains.

Instead, with traditional grilled meats, including slowly cooked pork ribs, steaks and old-fashion hamburgers, stick with traditionally styled American red zinfandels. For example, try the tasty2011 Ravenswood Zinfandel “Vintner's Blend — Old Vine,” California (4068; on sale, $9.99).

This classic “field blend” of zinfandel (75 percent), petite sirah (16 percent), syrah (6 percent) and other mixed red-skinned grapes offers fruit-forward aromas of black cherries, raspberries and brown spices. Refreshing red and black fruit flavors balance with light, subtle oak notes and bright acidity. The wine carries a modest 13.5 percent alcohol through the fruity, well-balanced finish. Highly recommended.

Dave DeSimone writes about wine for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at

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