So it's not surprising that, to entertain my new friends, I fired up the grill. Here's the meal:
First everybody had a taste of each of the wines. Then a slab of London broil was poked with a knife about 20 times. Each slit had a sliver of garlic pushed into it. The surface of the meat was rubbed with a bit of oil and sprinkled with fresh cracked black pepper.
Some local green beans went in a foil bag. A little sesame oil was dribbled on the top, then a few strokes of grated ginger, a squeeze of lemon and a dash of soy sauce.
The grill was hot, the meat was thrown on and the heat reduced to medium-high. After about two minutes the loosely closed foil bag was thrown on a cooler part of the grill and the meat turned. If you'd been there, you would have seen the grill marks. You also would have had a glass of wine.
The meat was cooked - rare of course - about six minutes later. I gave everybody a stack of beans and then arranged a blanket of thin slices of beef on top. (Micro slicing is the secret of using flavorful but chewy cuts of beef, but that's another story. . .)
There were biscuits and mixed green salad, but the real story is the main plate and the wines. And now for the scores:
Terra d'Oro by Montevina '97 ($16). Berry fruit with a hot, spicy mouth feel. A whopping 15.5-percent alcohol but there's enough density of fruit and tannic bite to keep the whole thing in balance. I noticed the high alcohol in a quick tasting before the meat was grilled, but with the beef on the plate, the slight booziness faded into the background.
Vigil Zinfandel Mohr-Fry Ranch Lodi '98 ($18). There was a tangy quality, as if you were chewing on grape stems or seeds that accentuated the abundant fruit in this unusual wine. The finish was curious-sharp, lingering and refreshing. Most importantly, it was perfect with the food, the kind of wine that complements the cook.
Alamos Ridge Bonarda '99 ($8). If your grandfather made wine, this is the wine he was trying to make - earthy, spicy, rough and lovable. This wine made me happy. You'll have to call around to find it in South Jersey, but when you do, buy a case.