Summer Grilling Party

By Lauren Smith Ford
Grilling 101 with Cambria Wines

We fully embraced Cambria Wine‘s entertaining philosophy when planning this summer steak dinner — our gatherings are comfortable and not fussy. They really require little more than friends, food, and wine. With those three key tenants in mind we converged at a glorious two acre estate just west of downtown Austin for a garden dinner under the stars (and sparkling festoon lights) for a grilling lesson with one of the city’s top chefs — Brandon Fuller. He learned the ropes in the kitchens of Austin greats before co-owning his own restaurant where he is focused on food that is local, organic and seasonal. Join us at the grill for some helpful tips that will come in handy this weekend…it’s the perfect time to grill dad a steak for Father’s Day!

*photography by buff strickland; location: sugar creek

Clean the grill.

When grill is hot, clean with grill brush. After the grill has been preheated, scrub the grill surface with a wire grill brush. This will remove particles on the grill that may otherwise stick to the meat.

Then, use a lightly oiled, rolled up old towel secured with twine.

A properly oiled grill will help prevent sticking. Roll up an old towel and secure the roll with butcher’s twine. Apply a small amount of oil (vegetable oil or olive oil will work fine) and liberally cover the grill surface area. Be careful — too much oil may ignite a flame up.

Season aggressively with salt and pepper.

While it is important to season to taste, many people do not season grilled meats aggressively enough. It is important to think about the size of the meat you are grilling and that it is only being seasoned on the surface area.

Preheat the grill.

Always make sure that you preheat your grill. For a gas grill, 15 minutes on high will properly preheat the grill. For a charcoal grill, make a mound of the coals, light and allow to burn until the coals develop a gray ash coating. Then, distribute the coals evenly throughout the desired cooking area. To check the temperature, place your hand over the area on which you’ll be grilling. Ideally you should not be able to keep your hand there for longer than one second.

In addition to the Wagyu sirloin steaks, Chef Fuller is also grilling up a few more items for tonight’s menu — grilled sweet potato, grilled Belgian endive and a grilled Romaine heart salad.

Chef advises that you keep the grilled Romaine hearts on high heat until charred or slightly wilted.

Cambria is a family-owned, estate winegrower located in the heart of the famed Santa Maria bench in Santa Barbara County. Bolstered by several decades of diligent winemaking and vineyard experience, Cambria’s wines faithfully express the unique stamp of one of the finest cool-climate crus in California.

Two of our favorite Austin-based photographers, Wynn Myers and Kate LeSueur, sip on Cambria’s 2012 Chardonnay, Katherine’s Vineyard.

We loved the way that Cambria’s Katherine’s Vineyard Chardonnay’s citrus acidity complemented the light flavors of the grilled vegetables, especially the grilled Belgian endive. With subtle pineapple, stone fruit and apple flavors, this chardonnay is a crisp, refreshing way to kickoff a summer evening. It would also pair perfectly with creamy cheeses and all kinds of seafood.


Chef looking sharp in his Stanley + Sons apron from spartan as he puts the finishing touches on the salad.

To get all the details on this refreshing summer salad, visit the Cambria Wines blog.

Place steaks onto hot part of grill, facing in the same direction.
For a one-inch steak at room temperature and a properly heated grill it should take about 4 minutes per side for medium rare. In order to make good grill marks, always point the steaks in the same direction on the grill. After 2 minutes, turn the steaks 90 degrees. Flip steaks over and repeat the process on the other side.


Scott Dubois, Wynn’s fiance, opens a bottle of Cambria’s Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir. Its dark berry, earthy and spicy aromas make it a nicely textured wine with classic Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir flavor characteristics.

Let the meat rest.

Whenever you cook a piece of meat it is very important to let the meat rest. For a one-inch steak, 5 minutes is enough. This allows the juices to redistribute through the meat and prevents dryness.

Tonight’s Wagyu steaks have a high percentage of unsaturated fat content which means it has a lot of flavor, and it takes a smaller portion to get full.

Chef Fuller shares tips with the table. If Wagyu is not available, he recommends finding a local butcher or butcher’s counter at a premium supermarket that offers aged steaks. Sirloin, Ribeye and NY Strip are some of his favorites to grill.

Dinner was served family style on one of Camille’s favorite kind of dishes — Heath Ceramics.

Guests had the option to accent their steak with side items like sweet chili aioli, basil, cilantro and mint.

Austin’s spartan shop outfitted our table with nesting bowls from the uber talented NYC-based ceramicist, Eric Bonin and Auntie Oti place mats.

Although Pinot Noir might not be the most obvious pairing with a rich cut of meat, Cambria’s Julia’s Vineyard has a distinct boldness that definitely stood up to the steak without overpowering. Its unique Santa Maria Valley characteristics yield a wine that’s full of dark cherry and strawberry flavors with a light earthiness. We love it with almost everything, but it’s especially amazing paired with poultry, steak, salmon, mushrooms and roasted tomatoes.

After dinner, cute newlywed couple, David Philips and Kate LeSueur, kicked back on the lawn of the breathtaking grounds of the Sugar Creek Drive home on spartan’s Rustic Twill blanket.