The days are longer and the weather is warmer, which can only mean one thing: It’s time to start grilling. And while rosés and crisp whites do have their place on a hot day, nothing quite goes with a barbecued steak or burger like a big and bold West Coast red wine.
So whether you’re having large outdoor party or just quickly grilling something for dinner, here are the 10 reds to have on hand.
Joseph Phelps 2015 Freestone Vineyards Estate Grown Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast); $60, 95 points. This is a standout wine, earthy in juicy red fruit, spicy clove and citrus peel. It is well integrated and robustly built, with a backbone of acidity that provides lasting structure and a finishing touch of elegance.—Virginie Boone
Hartford Court 2015 Sevens Bench Vineyard Pinot Noir (Carneros); $70, 93 points. This earthy wine is not loud on the nose in fruit tones, yet brings notes of mushroom, chalky, soot and compost to the fore. It’s tannic and dense on the palate, with a forest-floor character alongside notes of savory Asian spice and ripe red fruit.—V.B.
Halcyon 2016 Cabernet Franc (California); $30, 92 points. A brilliant Loire-esque play on the grape, this wine starts with cherry, dark cranberry, crushed peppercorns, wet stone and a hint of juniper on the nose. The palate is tremendously fresh and glugable, with a peppery spice decorating the deep yet tart red fruit. Airy yet with tannic grip, it has an aromatic finish.—Matt Kettmann
Rock Wall 2016 Hendry Vineyard Block 29 Zinfandel (Napa Valley); $45, 91 points.This is a structured and robustly built wine from a great site on the southern end of the appellation. Blueberry, red cherry and cedar all stand out, along with a spicy twist of nutmeg that persists on the lengthy finish.—V.B.
Martin Ranch 2015 Therese Vineyards Reserve Zinfandel (Santa Clara Valley); $32, 90 points. A swirl of smoke, blackberry paste, lavender, rosemary and sagebrush kick off the nose to this reserve bottling. Dried earth, wild red berries and red flowers show on the palate, which is reminiscent of the wines of old California.—M.K.
Gramercy 2015 The Third Man Grenache (Columbia Valley); $36, 92 points. This wine is three-quarters Grenache, balanced by Syrah (15%), Mourvèdre (5%) and Carignan. Lighter in color with a reddish tinge, dried and fresh herb, raspberry, plum, dried orange-peel, smoked-meat and mineral aromas are at the fore, bringing a delightful sense of purity. The palate is all about delicacy of the red-fruit flavors, showing a reserved styling. An extended juicy finish caps it off.—Sean P. Sullivan
Avennia 2015 Justine Red (Columbia Valley); $38, 92 points. This wine is 55% Grenache, 32% Mourvèdre and 13% Syrah, coming from Upland, Heart of the Hill and Oldfield respectively. Somewhat lighter in color, the aromas start out brooding with notes of raspberry, high-toned dried herb, mineral, pomegranate and cherry emerging over time. Ripe in style reflecting the warm vintage it comes from, the palate is packed full of red- and blue-fruit flavors that have a seamless feel with generous spice and herb accents throughout. It shows a lovely sense of purity on the fruit-filled finish. Editors’ Choice.—S.P.S
Mark Ryan 2015 Long Haul Red (Columbia Valley); $55, 91 points.This wine is mostly Merlot (84%), with the balance smidgens of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. With fruit coming from Quintessence, Red Willow, Ciel du Cheval, Klipsun and Olsen vineyards, the aromas leap up, with notes of toast, raspberry, earth, coffee bean, bittersweet chocolate and spice that show a lot of detail. The cherry and coffee flavors are polished and seamless in feel, lingering on the finish.—S.P.S
Underground Wine Project 2015 Idle Hands Red (Red Mountain); $30, 90 points. A joint project between winemakers Trey Busch and Mark McNeilly, this wine is almost all Syrah. The aromas are exuberant, with note of huckleberry, plum, smoked meat, baking spice, orange peel, cinnamon and raspberry. Bountiful fruit flavors coat the palate, bringing a pleasing sense of purity and more restraint than this warm appellation and vintage might suggest. Best by 2021.—S.P.S
Underground Wine Project 2015 Devil’s Playground Cabernet Sauvignon (Red Mountain); $30, 88 points. Aromas of cocoa, raspberry, plum, blueberry and wood spice lead to lighter-styled plum and herb flavors with fine-grained tannins. Spice flavors taper on the finish. It’s an enjoyable easy drinker but hard to peg the variety or appellation.—S.P.S