Observe the care with which the American backyard grill jockey shifts and turns that New York strip over a 2,000-degree gas flame to give it the perfect crosshatch of grill marks, and you’ll sense there’s something primal going on.
Like a cowboy putting his brand on a longhorn steer. Or a cave man holding a haunch of mastodon on a stick over that newest invention, the open fire.
Now, of course, we can put those grill marks on almost anything: portobello mushrooms, chicken, zucchini, parboiled potato wedges, corn-on-the-cob, sliced eggplant, olive-oil-brushed ciabatta, even tofu.
Because of the bitterness of scorch marks on grilled morsels, a perfect wine match for most of them — even the veggies — is cabernet sauvignon, which has the bitterness of hefty amounts of tannin. A good cab also has the powerful, dark-red fruit flavors and body to stand up to the burn.
Here are several, from $12 to $110 a bottle, worth considering:
2009 Hestan Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley: hint of oak, aromas and flavors of black plums and cassis, full-bodied, powerful tannins, smooth, age-worthy; $110.
2009 Clos LaChance Cabernet Sauvignon, Central Coast: hint of oak, aromas and flavors of blackberries and espresso, smooth, soft tannins; $15.
2010 Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County: aromas and flavors of cassis and mocha, big, ripe tannins, smooth and opulent; $18.
2010 Frank Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley: hint of oak, aromas and flavors of black plums and black pepper, rich and hearty; $50.
2010 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley: aromas and flavors of black raspberries, coffee and spice, hearty and rich, long finish; $28.
2010 Ghost Pines Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley: hint of oak, aromas and flavors of black cherries and black pepper, concentrated, smooth; $23.
2011 McManis Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, California: toasty oak aroma, flavors of black plums and mocha, smooth, ripe tannins; $12.
2010 Silver Palm Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast: minty aroma, flavors of blackberries and spice, soft and smooth; $22.
2010 Concannon Vineyard Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Livermore Valley: aromas an flavors of black cherries and mocha, rich and smooth, ripe tannins; $35.
2011 Mirassou Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, California: rich and fruity, with aromas and flavors of blackberries and herbs, soft tannins; $12.
2011 Bridlewood Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles: rich and ripe, with flavors of black cherries and milk chocolate, soft tannins; $15.
Fred Tasker writes about wine for the McClatchy News Service. He can be reached at email@example.com.