Observe the care with which the American backyard grill jockey shifts and turns that New York strip over that 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.
But now that the 21st century has arrived, patio chefs are much more sophisticated. 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 bread, tofu.
Even lettuce. Just Google a recipe for “grilled Caesar salad.”
It’s why a 2011 survey for the Weber grill people found that 71 percent of American adults own an outdoor grill, and the average grill owner spends five hours a week out over it.
Now, because of the bitterness of the scorch marks on the grilled morsels, a perfect wine match for most of them – even the veggies — is be cabernet sauvignon, which itself has the bitterness of hefty amounts of tannin.
A good cab also has the powerful, dark-red fruit flavors and the body to stand up to the burn.
It makes cabernet sauvignon, IMHO, the quintessential grilling wine.
• 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: hint of oak, aromas and flavors of black cherries and black pepper, concentrated, smooth; $23.
• 2011 McManis Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Calif.: 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, Calif.: 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 has retired from the Miami Herald but is still writing about wine. He can be reached at email@example.com.