Wine Pairings for Grill Season

What to drink with oysters Rockefeller, ribeye, and burgers

Rueda Verdejo is an excellent companion to grilled seafood, especially prawns.

It’s that time of year again — my favorite time — where we break out the grill, clean it off and fire it up! I’m always thinking about what I’m going to grill first, whether I should use charcoal or cedar or applewood, who I’m going to invite over and how much fun we’re going to have.

A lot of people assume that as a master sommelier I only drink really rare, really expensive wines. The kind of wines that aren’t accessible to everyone or that are a well-kept secret reserved only for those “in the know.” This is far from the truth! Many of my favorite wines are simple, classic, and available at most wine stores. Below are a few of my favorite wines to go with BBQ deliciousness!

One of my favorite summertime grilling items is oysters Rockefeller. I take half-shell oysters with some diced tomatoes, a bit of garlic butter, and a smoked bacon chip and grill it on the shell side. This gives an incredible umami flavor of sea salt, smoke, tomato acidity, and rich butter finished with crisp bacon texture! I love to pair this with Bordeaux blanc. Its zesty pink grapefruit and Meyer lemon, rounded out with a touch of oak, gives this wine a cream soda affect, and it really highlights the smoke, the sea, and cuts through the butter.

Rueda Verdejo is an excellent companion to grilled seafood, especially prawns. The sweet flesh of the prawn, finished with just a spritz of orange zest and maybe a sprinkle of sea salt, complements the lemon and citrus flavors of the Verdejo, and the old vine salty minerality ties in seamlessly with the flavors of the sea, creating a very refreshing match!

No cookout is complete without grilled meat (sorry, vegetarians). Take a well-marbled, bone-in pasture raised ribeye, dust it with salt and pepper, and throw it on the grill. Just before it’s about to be done throw some rosemary on the coals to help give flavor. Pair this with a rich Châteauneuf-du-Pape! The syrah in the blend gives smoke and olive notes, and the grenache provides white pepper and baked cherry. The growing region is surrounded by wild lavender and rosemary, which will show up in the wine!

And, of course, if you’re entertaining, the all-American burger is always welcome. I find that the best wine to pair with grilled burgers is zinfandel. I like a zinfandel from higher elevation that is well balanced and complex. No matter what toppings you like on your burger — cheese, pickles, mayonnaise, ketchup, jalapeños — Zinfandel works wonders. Its fruit cobbler flavors run the gamut from tart cranberry to dried plum, and it’s usually touched with a kiss of oak that rounds it all out. You can’t get more all-American than that!


And for dessert, nothing is better than Girl Scout Cookies! Admit it… they’re everyone’s kryptonite. Personally, I’m a big fan of Samoas. It’s a crisp cookie coated in caramel, sprinkled with toasted coconut, and striped with dark chocolaty coating. Samoas pair really well with Ribera del Duero tempranillo. The dark berry flavors in the wine are a natural complement to the chocolate, and it’s aged in American oak, which can impart light flavors like coconut and dill.