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Drinks: The reds move in with Labor Day

Once more unto the barbecue. Stiffen the sinews and get the grill going for Labor Day weekend.

You may be at the point in the season when beachy white wines are starting to give way to reds that stand up to the char. They don't have to be booming, bracing wines, either, just enough to handle the sizzle.

The 2010 Steelhead Red ($15) definitely does that. It's a blend of zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and syrah, ripe and ready with blackberry notes. Try it with red meat, from burgers to steaks. The 2010 Steelhead Pinot Noir ($15), fueled by red fruit, works with grilled salmon, swordfish and tuna, and is a good match with sausages, too.

Cherry and plum drive the 2009 Mettler Lodi "Epicenter" Old Vine Zinfandel ($20), a full-flavored red that stands up to grilled red meat, even if the cut is slathered with barbecue sauce. The 2008 St. Francis "Old Vines" Zinfandel ($24), a reliable choice to complement grilled steaks, burgers and chicken, has blackberry and black cherry by the bushel.

Paso Robles offers the 2008 Nine Twisted Spur ($28) red blend, an herbaceous, peppery wine with an affinity for lamb; and the versatile 2009 Nine Bootjack Ranch Sangiovese ($26), which kicks in with spice, vanilla and enough acidity to face beef and pork finished with any tomato-based sauce.

And, from Alexander Valley: the 2009 Farrier Presshouse ($24), mostly cabernet sauvignon with a big push from cabernet franc. Black fruit reigns. This one can handle beef and lamb, as well as that rack of spicy ribs.

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