Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of The Declaration of Independence, also had the distinction of being our country's first wine importer and our first serious vintner. Jefferson's vision extended well into the next two centuries and he foresaw America as an important wine producing country. It seems appropriate that we remember the grand gentleman from Monticello as we celebrate the beginning of the United States in our backyards by the grill, eating the delights prepared by our resident family chef and sipping something that is truly delicious. Jefferson loved to entertain at Monticello and took great care to serve his guests the best food along with wines carefully selected from his renowned cellar.

A few years back, I participated in a national survey canvassing chefs and cookbook authors to determine if there was any consensus that one type or style of food and cooking is quintessentially American. To no one's surprise, barbeque won hands down. And the conclusion was in no way confined to the South or Texas. The great chefs in legendary Manhattan restaurants expressed the same opinion as their counterparts in Miami, San Francisco and Seattle. The variable was the meat and style of sauce, but the barbeque basics of charcoal, smoke and slow cooking was constant.

The challenge for everyone who relishes the ceremony of the feast made possible from outdoor grilling is selecting wines that are appropriate for each style of barbeque. That's a question I pose to chefs and sommeliers often in the dead of winter and once again, tempered by my own experience, I found some uniformity of opinion. For red meats, principally beef and lamb, a Pinot Noir from Oregon works magic (this is America's holiday and although I love the greats from other countries and bear no prejudice whatever, we'll try – with some exceptions - to stay in our own vineyards for this sacred time of year). It's a soft wine that doesn't fight the smokiness and spices. Chicken is far more versatile for wine pairing and you can run the gamut of wines depending on the strength of the sauce and the intensity of the smoked flavor. If the finished chicken is a little on the lighter side, serve it with a first rate rose`, a wine that is on the rebound and is rapidly becoming a favorite with hot weather diners. It is fruity but generally not sweet and the chilled, beautiful liquid can truly elevate the taste of grilled chicken.

Pork is huge on the summer grill. A walk by the meat counter at Publix confirms this and if ribs, a Boston butt roast or loin is on your menu for family or guests, choosing the wine is going to be fun. In many ways the wine choices are similar to pairing with chicken. The sauces–sweet, tangy or spicy/hot–dictate the appropriate wine. The easiest and safest choice is Beaujolais, and the good news is that it's readily available, highly drinkable and easy on the wallet. Try a Beaujolais-Villages or even better, one of the heralded Cru Beaujolais, a Morgan, Julienas, Moulin-A-Vent or Saint-Amour. These should be moderately chilled in the refrigerator and will be a big hit with everyone at the dinner table.

Mr. Jefferson wouldn't mind at all if you deviated from domestic wines when necessary to celebrate the beginning of the country he helped create. He imported vast quantities of wines to Monticello from France, Germany and Italy to stock his Virginia cellar, and generously supplied wines for the first four Presidents. Jefferson believed in the American Dream and fostered hospitality as an American custom.

Celebrate the American way with barbeque, fine wine and good cheer. Together, they honor our tradition of freedom, family, friends and community.

 

At www.docsnews.com, read about the celebration of Jefferson's vineyard at Monticello, or enjoy America's best wine bar, in Lauderdale by the Sea, or explore Orlando and Pensacola, Florida - treats for the tastebuds in the sunshine state


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