Popular Power Couple: Steak & Cabernet Sauvignon

Lady May Cabernet is from South Africa, Louis M. Martini Cabernet is from Napa Valley, CA.

I think everyone would agree that this shitstorm of a summer has put the hammer down on all the usual fun: restaurant outings, vacations, picnics, concerts, festivals, baseball games and more. But one thing it has not shut down is my deck and my grill! I’ve hosted more friends on my deck this summer than ever before – one or two at a time – for some great meals. So when I was offered samples of two interesting Cabernet Sauvignons, I thought, “Yeah, let’s do a killer steak-and-Cabernet night!”

Steak and Cabernet go together like peanut butter and jelly! Or like hotdogs and mustard! Or…. or … like a cheeseburger and a hangover! You get my drift. And here’s what keeps it fresh and fun: tasting two Cabernets from different regions. Yes! Go nuts and open TWO bottles of Cabernet at the same time and taste them side-by-side. With steak! It’s fun! Last weekend, we had one from Napa Valley and one from South Africa. But you can find Cabernet from all over California, as well as Washington State, France, Chile, Argentina, Australia, even New Zealand!

In this post, you’ll meet two fabulous Cabernet Sauvignons and I’ll share tips on how to grill the perfect medium-rare steak. Come on!

2016 Louis M. Martini Cypress Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon ($100) Well, for starters, Louis Martini is one of the oldest wineries in Napa Valley, going back to 1933 in St. Helena. This sexy minx of a Cabernet is made of grapes from a single vineyard – Cypress RanchVineyard – in the Vaca Mountains, on the eastern slopes of Napa Valley. At 750-1000 feet in elevation, on gentle Western-facing hillsides, this vineyard has everything it takes to grow beautiful Cabernet grapes, including one of the largest diurnal shifts in the region (that’s when there is a big temperature swing, from warm days to very cool nights – which grapes looooooove).

The wine is … DIVINE! It’s fair to say we were both swooning over this one. It’s a powerful, complex wine bursting with black raspberry and currants, dried herbs (I detected a hint of sage) and a savory note capped with a touch of mocha at the end. It’s all wrapped up in finally integrated tannins and a fresh acidity. It’s a really well-made wine, and we savored every single sip! As we were waiting for the grill to heat up, we had a crazy cheese out – a Gouda flecked with nettles. Sometimes red wine and cheese can be hard to pair, but this was a deeeelicious delight of a pairing! Alright, next!

2012 Glenelly Lady May ($55) This is what’s fun about a side-by-side tasting: you can totally taste the differences between two of the same varietal (Cabernet Sauvignon) from two places. Where the Louis Martini Napa Cabernet was bolder and more fruit-forward, the Glenelly Lady May, made with fruit from the Simonsberg and Stellenbosch regions in South Africa, is much more earth-forward, with black prunes, dried fruits like dried cherries, dried thyme, and cedar. It’s a little leaner than the Martini, which I think is two things talking: the terroir (all the aspects of the place) and the winemaking style. It is 89 percent Cabernet, with 10 percent Petit Verdot and 1 percent Cabernet Franc.

The cool thing about GlenElly is its owner. May-Eliane de Lencquesaing (I know) is the former owner of Bordeaux’s revered Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, so there is some Bordeaux influence going on here. Both of these wines are available on Wine.com, but you can also ask your local wine store for them.

Okay, so on to the meat! We decided to grill a strip steak and a porterhouse (aka T-Bone) to see if we could any real differences there. And I have to say: they tasted exactly the same. Maybe the porterhouse was a little more tender (it did have better marbling than the strip, which was on the lean side). I’ve been able to discern differences between dry-aged beef and regular (or wet-aged beef) for sure, but these grocery store steaks were both delicious. The essence of a great food and wine pairing is this: the wine makes the food taste better and the food makes the wine taste better. If both of those things aren’t happening, know that you can do better on your pairings!

How to Grill Steak
For me, the key is DO NOT OVER COOK THE MEAT! I know – big, shouty caps, but this is really the only rule. Do. Not. Overcook the Steak! You paid good money for these steaks, so pay attention when grilling.

When it comes to seasoning, I’m a simple girl: salt and pepper the meat liberally an hour before you’re going to grill and leave the steaks out, to get to room temperature. And that’s it. Now, for the detailed instructions for doing steak on a gas grill:

  • Heat your grill to 400 degrees F. (This takes about 10 minutes or so). Be sure your grill slates are clean (use one of those scrubby brush things.)
  • Get your steaks and place them on the grill and START YOUR TIMER.
    • For a 1-2 inch thick strip steak: 4 minutes on one side. Flip. 4 minutes on other side. Take a temperature read. You are going for medium-rare, which is 130-135 degrees, so when it hits 125, TAKE IT OFF! Tent it loosely with foil and let it rest for at least 10 m minutes before slicing. It will continue cooking a bit and get right up to 130 and it will be perfect.
    • For a thinner cut, like a 1/2 or 3/4-inch steak, all the same, except less cooking time. Do 3 minutes on one side, 2 minutes on the other and take a temperature read.
  • Enjoy with your favorite glass of Cabernet Sauvignon!

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