When it comes to a barbecue on the beach, a few things are necessary — the right day (or evening), easily prepared but delicious food and, for me of course, the right wine. After that, everything else is a bonus.
So, at dusk one day last week on Nantucket, where we like to make an escape for a few days each summer to see old friends, we set out for the island’s Great Point. The beach, accessible only by four-wheel drive, is a remote and beautiful nature preserve. Getting there, mostly over eight miles or so of sand, is half the adventure.
Our friends, who were in charge of the food this time, confessed that they’d been cooking constantly for a stream of relatives and wanted to keep things simple. That would mean hot dogs for the children and, well, grown-up hot dogs for the rest of us — chicken sausages with chipotle chili peppers accompanied by potato and corn salads. Appetizers? A couple of cheeses, some salmon spread and a baguette laid out, tailgate style, in the open trunk of one of the SUVs.
With the ocean in front of us and the Great Point lighthouse behind us, we fired up our little grill on the sand and then, not a moment too soon, it was time for a glass of wine. The first, it turned out, was a drinkable but not very memorable white — a Grüner Veltliner from Austria that was on the thin side compared with others I have had. But then, what did I really expect from an $11, liter-size bottle? One can always hope.
As the sausages turned nicely brown I opened the wine I hoped would be a match for our main course — Qupé’s 2002 Central Coast Syrah from California, at $15. Slightly chilled, it worked well, holding up its end of the bargain with the hot and spicy sausages. This is an assertive, spicy food wine with tastes of dark cherry, raspberry, hints of sage and cardamom that complemented the strong character of the food. Served cool, it was even refreshing.
Qupé specializes in Rhône varieties and this wine, while mainly Syrah, is blended with small amounts of Grenache, Counoise, Mourvèdre and Cinsault. The grapes come from 11 vineyards in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. Talk about complexity.
As we sat on the beach watching the sun’s last stand, everything seemed just about right — good friends, good food and good wine. And, on this evening, there was indeed a bonus, an unexpected guest. Almost right in front of us, a seal showed up and rolled around the water’s edge, providing just the right entertainment.
Edward Deitch's wine column appears Thursdays. Write to him at .