There's a fairly universal rule that says if you're grilling a burger (or anything else, really), then you should haul out an affordable, juicy, no-brainer wine to go with it. But there's really no good logic at work here. In fact, simple foods (e.g., grilled meat) are usually the best choice for pairing with complex, expensive wines. And, on top of that, the bold flavors of grilled meats need partner wines with equal oomph. Here are five top-shelf reds that are perfect for steaks, chops or anything else off the grill.
2006 Hartford Fanucchi-Wood Road Vineyard Zinfandel ($50)
This powerhouse red comes from a 100-year-old vineyard in Sonoma's Russian River Valley. Packed with dense black raspberry and black cherry fruit, it ends on a savory black pepper note.
2006 Domaine Philippe & Vincent Jaboulet Crozes-Hermitage Nouvelère ($40)
After selling their renowned family company, Paul Jaboulet Aîné, this father-and-son team started over againalbeit with the same last name and with one of their family's original vineyards, now rechristened Nouvelère. Its gravelly soils produce this profound Rhône red, which is gamey and peppery at first, then unfolds into layers of dark savory fruit.
2006 Novy Susan's Vineyard Syrah ($34)
Mocha, floral and earth aromas rise from a glass of this Syrah from California's Santa Lucia Highlands region. At 15.2 percent alcohol, this is a big bear hug of a wine, full of sweet dark fruit and a distinct licorice note. Pour it with the biggest steak you can find.
2004 Louis M. Martini Monte Rosso Cabernet Sauvignon ($75)
The Martini winery has owned this famous Sonoma vineyard since 1938, using its fruit primarily for this powerful but streamlined Cabernet. Its black cherry and cassis flavors get a hint of floral spiciness from a small (2 percent) percentage of Petite Verdot.
2006 Amon-Ra Barossa Valley Shiraz ($90)
Winemaker Ben Glaetzer uses grapes from 80- to 120-year old vines in Australia's Barossa Valley for this intense, purple-black, wildly aromatic Shiraz (think espresso, violets and blackberries). It's luscious and velvety, but packs a tannic wallop.