Summertime, And The Livin' Is Easy....

While anytime seems like a good time to entertain outdoors, there is something special about summertime. Splashing in the pool, dining alfresco, the smell of sun tan lotion, glorious sunshine, and laughing with friends and family -- all generate precious summer memories that last year after year. Backyard entertaining can be anything you want -- be it a suit-optional pool party for two, lunch for a few couples or a BBQ party for 40.

Some basics are common to all sizes and styles of outdoor gatherings: keeping food and drinks cold, providing shade and comfortable seating, minimizing insects and providing adequate lighting if the party extends beyond sunset. And of course an absolute necessity for summer entertaining is a grill.

  Wine & Grilling

Choosing a wine for barbeques isn't as difficult as it may seem and the rules are short and sweet: wine should have the aromatics to hold its own with the smokiness of the grill, and be flexible enough to deal with a variety of marinades and sauces. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Steak
    Regardless of the cut, you need a rich, full-bodied wine. For lightly seasoned meats, try a Merlot or Sangiovese. If the meat is cooked with sauces or rubs, try something a bit heartier such as a Cabernet Sauvignon, or a peppery Zinfandel.

  • Chicken
    For lightly seasoned chicken try a Sauvignon BLanc or Riesling. As spicies are kicked up a notch, adjust your wine accordingly, going from Chardonnay to Viognier, then finally stepping into the red wine arena with Petit Sirah for chicken glazed with a spicy BBQ sauce.

  • Ribs
    Always a grill-masters favorite. Whether the ribs have been cooked on an open fire or sealed in a foil wrap, you just can't miss with a Zinfandel or Syrah.

  • Shrimp
    Grilled shrimp has a wonderful crispness and sweetness that needs a wine with fruit and zest such as a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.

  • Burgers
    This summer staple comes in all varieties and garnishses but in the end a full bodied Merlot or Zinfandel will please everyone's taste buds.

  •   Grilling with Citrus

    Grilling with citrus keeps meats/poulty/fish moist and fills them with a fresh flavor. Here's a short pairing guide:

    • Fish & oranges + parmesian
    • Chicken & oranges + BBQ sauce
    • Shrimp & grapefruit + creamy dressing
    • Pork chops & limes + BBQ sauce

    Here's how you do it:
    1. Squeeze juice from one fruit and mix with your sauce of choice. Put half the mixture in a baggie with your dish and marinate for 15 minutes.

    2. Cut four fruit of choice into four slices. Place half on the grill and top with your meat, fish ot chicken. Brush with remaining sauce.

    3. Grill food, turning over for even cooking. When done remove the food from the grill and discard the citrus underneath. Place remaining slices on grill and cook slightly to release the essence of the fruit.

    4. Plate and serve!

      Try Foil Grilling

    Grilling your favorite food in a foil wrap is an easy, no mess way to barbeque and spend more time with your guests. There's also the added benefit of adding a dash of wine or broth into the wrap before closing it up. Some folks like to use two layers, but a single layer of quality aluminum foil is usually enough. Incidentally, corn-on-the-cob is delicious when roasted in foil.


      Cedar Plank Grilling

    Attaching food to wood planks for cooking over an open fire was invented by Native American Indians. Today cooking on a wood plank is a refreshing change from your typical barbeque and it's a snap to do. The wood infuses the food with a delicious smokiness and requires minimal supervision.

    Here's the basics:

  • Buy untreated planks

  • Soak plank in water for four hours, using a weight to keep it submerged. You can also soak the plank in wine, vinegar or lemon juice for different flavors

  • Brush top side of plank wiith vegetable oil.

  • Top with meat or fish and place in the center of the grill. Close cover

  • Check for plank fire. Use a spritzer bottle for flare-ups.

    When done, remove the food from the plank and turn off grill. Allow wood to cool before removing.

    For a HOW-TO guide on cedar plank grilling, check out our ......Slideshow


      Grilling Tips

    TIP #1: Marinate
    Marinating is a fast way to tenderize meat. Use 1 to 2 cups of marinade for every 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of food.

    TIP #2: Charcoal starter
    When usuing charcoal, use as little starter fluid as possible. Once the fire has started, wait a few minutes for the fluid to burn off before placing food on the grill.

    TIP #3: BBQ & BEER
    When grilling with the BBQ closed, open a can of beer and place it over the hot part of the grill. The beer will boil and saturate the air inside with water vapor and beer flavors, keeping the meat moist.

    TIP #4: Applying Sauces
    Tomato and sugar based sauces should be added at the end of the grilling process to prevent them from burning.

    Keeping Wine Cool

    To keep the wine chillin' while you're grillin' refrigerate a few bottles of each wine to be served. A few hours of cold-soaking will help with the initial temperature shock. Once the wine is outside, and lacking a handy outdoor refrigerator, here's a few tips:

    #1. Stock your outdoor sink with ice and place the wine in this impromptu chiller.

    #2. Place your wine in an ice-filled cooler.

    #3. Fill a galvanized tub with ice and a little water to cool your wine and beverages. Try adding a little dry ice to extend the ice life.

    #4. Always place your beverages and food in a shady spot.

    Surprise your guests and help them stay cool by serving a platter of frozen grapes. Rinse off a few bunches and place in the freezer for at least two hours. Then just serve.


    Here's an easy and delicious recipe for a white wine Sangria.

    • 1 bottle of white wine
    • 1/4 cup orange juice
    • 1/4 cup of lemon juice
    • 1/4 cup white grape juice
    • 1/2 cup of vodka
    • 1 cup halved grapes
    • 1 lemon, sliced
    • 1 orange, sliced
    Mix items together in a pitcher and chill before serving.


    The best was to check if meat is done is touch or squeeze the meat itself.

  • Rare meat feels like the texture of flesh. Medium meat has slight spring to it while well done meat is firm.
  • If the meat is too hot to touch you can try cutting a small slice with a sharp knife.
  • If you have a meat thermometer, the internal temp of a rare meat is 125-130 degrees, medium meat is 130-140 degrees and well done meat is 165 degrees.