Wines to ‘steak’ a claim with

By Louis Marmon, The Vine Guy

January 29th, 2009

A big "thank you" to Louis Marmon, The Vine Guy at the, for mentioning Char Crust Dry Rub Seasoning in his wine-pairing article, reprinted below.

WASHINGTON – One of the ways we coax our son to visit us from college is to prepare his favorite meal: a grilled rib-eye steak prepared with Char Crust® Hickory rub. And now that he is 21 years old, we also have to find the perfect wine to match the steak. Rather than figuring this out for myself, I solicited expert advice from the folks responsible for the wines at several of Washington, D.C.’s finest steak restaurants.

For someone who is just starting out exploring wine, The Palm’s Kurt Hamilton suggests an American-grown Bordeaux-style blend known as a "Meritage" (rhymes with heritage). A combination of various amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot, a Meritage is "very drinkable with tannins that are not too harsh." He recommends the "bold with great balance" 2005 Beaulieu Vineyards Reserve Tapestry ($40) with blackberry, cassis, chocolate and spice flavors that would "complement any steak with pretty much any seasoning."


The first thing that came to mind for Nadine Brown from Charlie Palmer Steak was also a Bordeaux blend from California, the "crowd-pleasing and consistently well-made" 2005 Girard Artistry ($40) that "has a bit more Cabernet Franc than you see in other blends, which gives it more earthiness and a sense of place. Very balanced, with not over-extracted dark fruit and soft tannins that make it ready to drink as soon as it is opened."

Morton’s Brian Carpinello has an "out-of-the-box suggestion for a hickory rub," a Riesling specifically the 2007 Chateau Ste-Michelle Eroica ($19) from Washington State. This wine’s brisk acidity and complex citrus, pear and mineral flavors would "go well with an appetizer such as a shrimp cocktail and would also transition nicely into the steak course." His more conventional option is the 2006 Stag’s Leap Napa Petite Syrah ($35) which is "more jammy and has great blackberry flavors with a thicker body and smooth finish that won’t overpower the flavors of the beef."

Nicole Saladyga is in charge of the wine at one of D.C.’s newer establishments, Chef Laurent Tourondel’s BLT Steak. "Rib-eye is one of the fattiest cuts, and therefore one of the most flavorful. You want a wine that is big and full-bodied to stand up to the flavors." If price is no object, her suggestion is a "powerful, ‘in-your-face’ Napa Valley wine," the 2005 Buccella Cabernet Sauvignon ($122) that is "big and luscious" with black fruit, hazelnut and spice flavors. She would also consider a 100 percent Syrah from the Cote Rotie, the 2005 Domaine Francois Villard Le Gallet Blanc ($78), a "powerful, rich expression of blackberry, raspberry and dark fruit with some earthiness and mineral qualities."

The wine list at another D.C. newcomer, Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak, is supervised by Brick Loomis, who proposed the more reasonably priced 2005 Owen Roe Ex Umbris Syrah ($23) from Washington State.

"A great grilling wine from a dynamic winery," he explained, "It has a pronounced smokiness as well as the bacon fat and other expected syrah flavors that are strictly from the vineyard rather than anything the winemakers do in the cellar. Like getting Bergdorf quality at Kmart prices."

Zinfandel is another option but Loomis is not enamored with many of the latest releases. "Zins have a natural tendency to become too roasty, plumy and pruney. And it can be difficult to keep the alcohol in check." He does like the 2005 Neyers Tofanelli Vineyard Zinfandel ($28) that is "understated, sleek and polished with cassis, red berry fruit and just a little of the Zin spice."

Fleming’s Billy Sullivan would open one of his favorite Australian Shiraz, specifically the "flavorful and full-bodied 2005 Two Hands Gnarly Dudes ($24). It is very easy drinking, with a nice spiciness along with big blackberry, boysenberry and other fruit flavors. It is not tannic but has the structure to hold up to the grilled rib-eye." He also loves the "incredibly smooth 2005 Tintara Shiraz ($19), a great value made by one of Australia’s oldest wineries. It is hand-crafted with spicy blueberry, blackberry and white pepper flavors. Its pleasant texture and balanced tannins will not overpower the steak."

Currently at The Prime Rib, Jim Ross has been in the food and wine business for more than 30 years.

"Our meat is roasted," he said, "but I do love a grilled steak or lamb chop. Your rib-eye will need a bold wine. I am a huge fan of the Pacific Northwest wines so I would go with the 2005 Spring Valley Frederick ($45) from the Walla Walla Valley."

A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, it is an "all-purpose wonderful steak wine that is very fruit-forward with beautiful structure and the guts to match the steak. It is a wine that you will remember."