Story by Dave Eckert
Over the past two weeks, I’ve sent along some suggestions for sparkling, rose, and white wines to enjoy as the foliage greens and the temperatures rise. Today, I return with the last of my weather-inspired wine trilogy-red wines, or as some of my wine drinking friends call them, “real wine.”
I don’t have a lot of rules when it comes to selecting the color of wine I’m drinking, though I do have a preference when it comes to picking a red wine for warmer weather. I enjoy a red wine that I can serve with a slight chill during the spring and summer. There are two grape varieties that lend themselves especially well to the “Dave Eckert Rule”-pinot noir and gamay. Both grapes produce wines that are light to medium-bodied (in most cases). Both are adaptable to a wide variety of styles and cuisine. And, both are perfectly comfortable spending a few minutes in the fridge before being popped open.
I’ll start with gamay. When it comes to gamay, I immediately go to the birthplace of the grape and the area where it reaches its zenith-the Beaujolais region of France. Beaujolais, which is located just south of the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir paradise of Burgundy, produces its red wines with 100-percent gamay. Within the region, however, there are a myriad of expressions of the grape. I’ve selected two-one lighter-bodied and one fuller-bodied. Both are from Beaujolais legend, Georges DuBoeuf.
Georges DuBoeuf Beaujolais Villages Flower Bottle, Beaujolais, France ($13.99 SRP) ~ a “go to” wine for the Eckert household for more than 20-years, DuBoeuf’s Beaujolais Villages captures the essence of Gamay-bright flavors and aromas of cherries, raspberries, and strawberries. This wine can be drunk on its own or be the perfect accompaniment to everything from a fruit salad to char-grilled chicken.
Georges DuBoeuf Jean Ernest Descombes Morgon, Beaujolais, France ($24.99 SRP) ~ this is one of my favorite expressions of a “Cru” Beaujolais where all the grapes come from single areas, or “crus,” within the region. In this case, it’s Morgon. Cru Beaujolais can run the gamut from light, silky, and flowery, to meatier, heavier, and more intense depending on the Cru, the producer, and even areas within the individuals Crus. In general, Morgon wines tend to be bigger, more intense expressions of gamay that can both age and stand up to heartier cuisine. The wonderful thing about this wine is the fact that it has those characteristics yet is still soft and approachable at a young age. I love it!
Now, how about some Pinot Noir? If anyone ever asks me that, my immediate answer is “Yes, please!” I like Pinots from all corners of the planet, especially from their birthplace, Burgundy, France. However, prices of red Burgundies often exceed my finances, so I am often left exploring other options. Fortunately, there are many more affordable Pinots to sip and savior this spring and summer. Here are a few:
Bernier Pinot Noir, Loire Valley, France ($15.99 SRP) ~ if you find a better value Pinot Noir than this beauty from France’s Loire Valley, please let me know as I’d like to buy a case or two. Meantime, I’ll be stocking up on the Bernier Pinot, a lovely light to medium-bodied wine with an intense nose ranging from ripe blueberries, to wildflowers, to earthy notes of minerality and leather. I had this wine on its own, but it would have been great with the pan-seared duck breast I had just the other day!
Talbott Vineyards Kali Hart Point Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, California ($26 SRP) ~ traveling to Monterey County’s Santa Lucia Highlands two years ago and tasting dozens of their Pinots has given me a newfound appreciation for this style of Pinot Noir. Bigger, richer, and fuller-bodied than most Pinots, SLH versions reflect their terroir as much as any Pinot Noir made outside of Burgundy. This wine, a blend of Talbott’s vineyard holdings throughout the region, is a perfect example of that. There is a ton of ripe red fruit on the nose and the palate, nuances of well-integrated oak, and, as with all SLH wines, bracing acidity. All in all, this is a delicious, well-balanced wine!
MacRostie Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, California ($34 SRP) ~ there’s a wildness to Sonoma Coast Pinot Noirs that I especially enjoy. MacRostie winemaker Heide Bridenhagen tames that wildness while still allowing it to express itself. In this Pinot, the brambly, wild strawberry fruit one often finds in Sonoma Coast Pinots makes its presence felt in the nose and on the palate. There are also notes of spice and cocoa and terrific acidity, which is element of Sonoma Coast fruit that I particularly enjoy.
Somerset Ridge Vineyard and Winery, Flyboy Red ($15.99 SRP) ~ I wanted to get in a local wine as well, so here’s a lovely lighter-bodied red from Somerset Ridge. Their Flyboy Red is a soft, fruity wine that is both approachable and easily quaffable with a bit of a chill on it. From Somerset’s website comes the following: “Released in honor of our late “Vice-President of Tasting” Lt. Col. Arch Tucker, one the first jet fighter pilots in the US Air Force. The label features a photograph of him exiting his F-86 fighter jet after his 100th combat mission in Korea.”
Toscolo Chianti DOCG, Tuscany, Italy ($13 SRP) ~ there are few regions in the world I love more than Tuscany, and few grapes in the world I enjoy more than Sangiovese. From light and fruity to dark and extracted, Sangiovese can produce a style of wine to please the palate of virtually every wine drinker. This Chianti, comprised of 100-percent Sangiovese, is on the light side. It is brilliant in color, brimming with fruit, and ready for quaffing. Try a little Pecorino cheese, or better yet, grab some fresh sheep’s milk cheese from Westin’s Green Dirt Farm and spread it on some bread or crackers. It’s guaranteed deliciousness.
Ken Forrester Petit Pinotage, South Africa ($15.99 SRP) ~ Pinotage, a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault in 1925 is often considered South Africa’s signature grape. I’ve never been a huge fan as it can often have a funky, barnyard character to it, and not in a good way. Not this one, though, which has the high tone fruit you want in a Pinotage along with some darker fruit notes and hints of bacon. It’s the total package-balance, depth, complexity, and a terrific price.
Herdade Sao Miguel Sul Red ($10.99 SRP) ~ there are some terrific wine values coming out of Portugal these days, including these next two red wines from Herdade. This one, the Sao Miguel Sul Red, is an earthy, fruity, juicy bottle of wine that begs to be “chilled and killed.” Nothing complex here, just a ton of brambly fruit and some earthy undertones. Buy and drink by the case!
Herdade de Sao Miguel Art.Terra Amphora Tinto Red ($18.99 SRP) ~ an elevated version of the Sao Miguel Red, the Amphora raises the bar with more complexity and elegance. Boasting a bright red color and layered with tons of dark red fruit, the Amphora pulls it all together with nots of earth and lovely, lively acidity.
Bonterra Organic Vineyards Young Red – 4-pack 250ml cans ($17.99 SRP) ~ I’ve been a fan of Bonterra for a long time. In fact, the afternoon I spent with then winemaker Bob Blue filming an episode of my television show, Culinary Travels with Dave Eckert, was one of the most pleasant I had during the show’s production. This wine might just be the perfect summer red. It’s brimming with bright red fruit and cries out for some time in the fridge. I knew I’d like this when I learned it was basically a product of Bonterra’s rose program, which I love, with a touch of Malbec added for character. The cans also make the Young Red a great candidate for a picnic, even if the picnic has to be held on the deck, patio, or in the driveway.
Troon Vineyard Cotes de Kubli Rouge, Applegate Valley, Oregon ($45 SRP) ~ a biodynamic wine from a much under-appreciated winery and wine region, Troon’s Cotes de Kubli Rouge is a blend of Syrah and Grenache, modeling a classic Rhone Valley blend. Here, the Grenache, brightens and lifts the wine with fruits and flowers while the Syrah gives the wine depth and length. The combination is a delicious and balanced wine just waiting for that grilled steak or smoked brisket.