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Summertime backyard cookout season is in full swing! Grilling season often means simple and fresh fare, featuring lots of red meats and vegetables.

Grilling adds smokiness and char to foods, creating aggressive flavors that can overwhelm lighter wines, so figuring out the best wine pairing for grilled food can sometimes be a challenge. We’re here to help.

Often, the addition of spicy and sweet sauces can complicate wine pairings. Zinfandels, with their juicy and robust flavors, can stand up to anything your grill, spice-rack and barbeque-sauce lineup can dish out. Cloud Break Zinfandel, with bold notes of dark fruit and spice, is a fresh, tasty summer red wine to partner with grilled fare.

Southern Italian reds, especially wines made from the fresh and spicy Nero d’Avola  [NAY-roh DAH voh-luh] grape, pair well with grilled peppers, zucchini, onion and eggplant too. One of our favorites is the Caleo Nero d’Avola because it’s an exciting Sicilian red full of fresh cherry and blackberry flavors with a nice kick of savory spice.

Cabernet Sauvignons also meld nicely with rich, marbeled steaks or beef or lamb burgers. Now, you don’t have to break the bank to get a tasty grill-friendly Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cooper Station Cabernet comes in around $10 and is a lovely ready-to-party red with savory flavors of black cherry and blackberry. This is a perfect wine pairing with lamb, especially when that lamb comes in the form of sizzling, full-flavored burgers.

Here’s a great recipe (courtesy of New Orleans restaurateur Mark Benfatti) that will thrill your guests:

Lamb Burgers with Spinach and Goat Cheese


  • 1 lb. ground lamb
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup unseasoned bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup chopped green onion/scallions
  • ¼ cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Rosemary, to taste
  • Baby spinach, for garnish
  • Small log goat cheese
  • 4 sourdough buns

Before preparing burgers, preheat grill to medium-high.

In large bowl, mix lamb, egg and bread crumbs.  Work ingredients together with hands to ensure even distribution.

Add green onions, green bell pepper and minced garlic and salt, pepper and rosemary to taste. Divide lamb mixture into four evenly sized balls, then flatten each to ¾”.

Place burgers on grill and cook 3 to 5 minutes on each side, depending on desired finish.  Warm sourdough buns on top rack of grill for the last minute of cooking.

Once complete, add burgers to buns and top with spinach and goat cheese as desired. Serves 4.