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Red, white and sparkling wine for Fourth of July

Friday - 7/1/2011, 2:49pm  ET

Scott Greenberg, special to wtop.com

When I was growing up, the Fourth of July meant ice cold watermelon, cookouts, a parade down Main Street, and fireworks at the community college stadium. And beer. Lots and lots of beer.

But that was then.

Today, wine is a familiar site at backyard barbeques across the country, and celebrating the birth of our nation in the nation's capital with an assortment of red, white and sparkling wines is a great way to declare your own independence.

As Benjamin Franklin put it, "Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance." I'll drink to that.

I use to love running around the front lawn waving sparklers to and fro, blissfully ignoring the small patches of skin that were singed by wayward cinders. Today, my sparklers are made up of bubbles instead of burns. The Non-Vintage Mumm Demi-Sec Sparkling Wine from Napa Valley, California ($28) is a versatile and delicious bubbly. Just slightly sweet and sporting flavors of melon, crème brulée and bright citrus, it can stand alone as an aperitif or pairs beautifully with the all-American dessert, apple pie.

What better way to celebrate our independence than with a white wine that is all about liberty, like the 2009 Liberty School Chardonnay from Central Coast, California ($12). The wine is made with a touch of new oak and does not undergo any secondary malolactic fermentation so the green apple and nectarine flavors stay bright and focused on the front of the palate. Notes of lemon/lime citrus lend a refreshing tanginess to the crisp finish.

Zinfandel is considered the all-American grape, and thanks to the characteristic dark fruit and black pepper notes, it pairs well with grilled meats like steaks and ribs. Having just recently participated as a judge in the National Capital Barbecue Battle Rippin' Ribs contest, I know I'll be looking for the 2009 Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel from Lodi, California ($12) the next time I cook up a batch of baby backs. Produced from tiny berries harvested from old "head trained" vines ranging in age from 35 - 80 years old, the wine features scents blueberry jam and spicy pepper on the nose and flavors of black plum, dark cherry and vanilla in the mouth. Bold notes of black pepper strike a lasting impression on the medium finish.

If you're looking for a fun wine to enjoy with friends and fireworks, try the 2008 Bodegas Exopto Wine Cellars Big Bang from Rioja, Spain ($18). This red wine is a blend of Garnacha, Tempranillo, and Graciano and offers up a nose of blackberry, dark cherry and cigar humidor. The explosion of flavor in the mouth features juicy notes of blackberry, cassis, tobacco, and earthy highlights. The bright acidity keeps the wine lively and fresh from start to medium-bodied finish.

The American Revolution was fought for the right to be free, so the aptly named 2010 Ken Wright Cellars Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, Oregon ($40). The fragrant bouquet of red berries violets on the nose is just a teaser for what's in store for the mouth. This wine is deeply layered with intense-yet-velvety flavors of cherries, plums and baking spices throughout its wonderfully long finish. The medium-bodied frame offers just a touch of dark raspberry on the softly texture finish.

And if you absolutely must have a cold beer this Fourth of July, there is no more patriotic brew to toast America's birthday with than the Samuel Adams Revolutionary Rye Ale ($16/twelve pack). This deep reddish-hued ale has a nice balance of sweet and spicy flavors, complemented by pine and citrus notes from the combination of German and American hops. The malted Rye provides additional complexity and a slightly dry finish.

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