Story by Dave Eckert | Intro photo courtesy of Borsoa Tres Picos
The only thing I enjoy more than writing about wine options for the summer months is trying those options. With this article, I’ve accomplished both. Although my wife and I drink a lot more lighter whites and rose wines during the heat of the summer, we still consume our share of medium to full-bodied red wines as well. What follows is a roundup of some of our summertime favorites-white, pink, and red. Cheers!
Matanzas Creek Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc (SRP $24): Long one of my favorite domestic Sauvignon Blanc producers, Matanzas Creek produces a bevy of Sauvignon Blanc bottlings. The Sonoma County version showcases the best of what the winery coaxes from the grape. The wine features aromas of grapefruit, guava, and kiwi, a full-throated palate, and the winery’s signature acidity. It’s simply a lovely, well-balanced wine!
Markham Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley (SRP $20): Over on the Napa side of things, you will find this wonderful Sauvignon Blanc expression from Markham Vineyards. As the planet in general, and Napa Valley specifically, heats up, Markham continues to offer an authentic expression of cooler-climate Sauvignon Blanc. The wine is a grapefruit, lime, and citrus driven bottling with lovely minerality and a crisp, clean finish. Delightful.
Hess Select Pinot Gris, California (SRP $14.99): While based in The Napa Valley, Hess makes wines from throughout California, including the next two white wines I’m recommending. This is the first time I’ve tried the Hess Select Pinot Gris, and I must say, I was impressed. Many California appellation Pinot Gris tends to be a bit flabby with flavors and aromas of bubblegum (not what I’m looking for in a Pinot Gris, or any wine for that matter). Here, though, Hess keeps things tight and focused with some peach and melon aromas and flavors buttressed by terrific acidity. The acidity maintains the wine’s structure as the flavors continue to evolve and unwind as the wine opens up. Tasty!
Hess Select Chardonnay, Monterey County (SRP $14.99): I enjoy Chardonnays from Monterey County as the county’s proximity to the ocean or elevation into the foothills on the other side of the county keeps things cool allowing the Chardonnay to mature slowly while maintaining its core of acidity. The Hess Select Chardonnay is a classic Monterey Chardonnay with tropical aromas alongside notes of citrus. I like the wine’s contrasting flavors and aromas, and especially appreciate its balance of ripe fruit and mouth-cleansing acidity. Bravo.
Dry Creek Vineyard Chenin Blanc, Clarksburg (SRP $16): Dry Creek Vineyard is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, so this is a special release. But consider the fact that DCY is the only American winery to produce 50 consecutive vintages of Chenin Blanc, and you can see just how special this bottling is. One hundred percent stainless steel fermentation guarantees fresh fruit and bright acidity, a hallmark of this sumptuous, delicious wine! Happy anniversary!
Dry Creek Vineyard Fume Blanc, Sonoma County (SRP $16): Another classic bottling from this much-beloved winery, DCV’s Sonoma County Fume Blanc also undergoes fermentation in 100% stainless steel tanks, giving customers a true Sancerre-inspired wine that is crisp, clean, and extremely food-friendly. Try pairing this with a grilled corn and avocado salad. You will thank me.
Tribute Sauvignon Blanc (SRP $20): Tribute by Chris Benziger is a continuation of the incredible success and forward-thinking of the Benziger family and their Benziger Family Winery. Here, Benziger treads the Sauvignon Blanc line between bolder tropical notes and crisp citrus and mineral qualities. Benziger and the wine deftly walk that tightrope to tasty results. Excellent with seafood, we paired the Tribute Sauvignon Blanc with spicy grilled shrimp, and it was delicious!
Ponga Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand (SRP $15): Many Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc’s can be overwrought to my palate, but the Ponga, a new producer for me, hits all the right notes. While there are both ripe citrus and tropical fruit flavors and aromas, they are balanced by chalky, earthy notes and lively acidity. A complex wine, especially for the price, we matched this with an herb and lemon stuffed Branzino. It was a delicious pairing.
I’ve loaded up on the rosé recommendations this time around because 1) I love rosé, and 2) rosé might just be the perfect summer wine as it works with a wide range of food, is lower in alcohol and tannins, and the many different styles and price ranges guarantee a rosé to please all palates and pocketbooks!
Martini & Rossi Sparkling Rosé (SRP $14): I love sparkling wine, and I love sparkling rosé even more. Sure, I could drop $50 or more on a lovely sparkling Champagne or great domestic sparkler, but why when I can crush this lovely bottle of pink bubbles for $14? No, this is not a Laurent-Perrier or Billecart Salmon, but this Martini & Rossi Sparkling Rosé hits all the notes for my summer rosé all-day attitude. Serve well-chilled!
La Vielle Ferme Rosé (SRP $11.99): Let’s start in France, which is still the King of Rosés, in my opinion. The La Vielle Ferme Rosé, a blend of Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah, is a gateway rosé, introducing you to the joys of rosé (light, refreshing, and affordable) while still delivering a solid backbone of flavors and aromas. The importer’s tasting notes said the wine offered “The perfect match between minerality and gluttony!” I can’t top that!
Chateau Miraval Rosé (SRP $27.99): Way up the Rose ladder is this stunner, a Provenćal Rosé for the ages. The nose releases all the elegance of the wine, delicately combining fresh fruit, currants, and fresh-cut roses. The elegance experience is followed on the palate with tons of fresh fruit held in check by the wine’s terrific acidity and minerality. This might be my favorite wine on the entire list. In fact, I’m pretty sure that is it!
Famille Perrin Cotes du Rhone Reserve Rosé (SRP $13.99): Somewhere in between the La Vielle Ferme and the Chateau Miraval is this sneakily delicious rosé. The wine first grabs you with its bouquet, a combination of red fruits and fresh flowers, then quickly follows with an onslaught of sumptuous red fruit, and lip-smacking acidity. Buy this beauty by the case!
Marques de Caceres Rosé (SRP $27.99): From one of my favorite Spanish producers comes this rosé crafted with red wine drinkers in mind. Fuller-bodied and darker-colored, the wine is a bigger, bolder rosé, yet still balanced and elegant. This is a nice wine to compare and contrast with a lighter-styled rosé.
Tenuta de Fessina Erse Rosato (SRP $24.99): I don’t think I’ve ever had a wine from Sicily’s Mount Etna appellation that I didn’t like, and I’m certainly not going to start here. A rosé with incredible depth and presence, the Tenua de Fessina Erse Rosato is both layered and complex, yet, at the same time, elegant and fresh. The influence of Mount Etna’s volcanic soils can be smelled and tasted throughout the consumption of this wine, much to my delight!
Wander + Ivy Rosé (SRP $7.99): Simple, fresh, and light-bodied, the Wander + Ivy Rosé, a new wine for me, was a pleasure to drink, which, I think, is the whole point of wine, right? The price point makes it all the more pleasurable.
19 Crimes Snoop Cali Rosé: Okay, so the whole 19 Crimes label thing is more than a little gimmicky, but you know what, once you get past that, this is a pretty darned tasty rosé. Fruit-forward with notes of fresh raspberry, strawberry, and red cherry, this blend of Zinfandel, Grenache, and Pinot Noir gives the wine drinker, at least this wine drinker, exactly what they’re looking for: a solid, dependable, refreshing glass of rosé.
Cakebread Cellars Vin de Porche Rosé (SRP $28): Cakebread Cellars is the Mount Etna of Napa Valley for me. Not in the style of their wines, but in the fact that I’ve never had a Cakebread wine that I didn’t like. My like-love affair with Cakebread continues with this lovely, quaffable rosé. Strawberry and raspberry notes are balanced by bright acidity and a hint of minerality. As with all Cakebread wines, the Vin de Porche Rosé shines with food. Try lighter salads, fruit tarts, or your particular seasonal favorite!
Le Fat Bastard Pinot Noir, France (SRP $13): I don’t know about you but give me a tasty $13 Pinot Noir from France that actually tastes like Pinot Noir any day of the week! Even with the silly name, the Le Fat Bastard Pinot is a lovely wine and a terrific expression of the area from which is sourced-the picturesque communes of Pezenas and Narbonne. The relatively high altitude of the vineyards contribute to the color, aromas, flavors, and overall elegance of the wine. No, it’s not going to fool you for a Red Burgundy, but when’s the last time you found a bottle of $13 Red Burgundy? A very tasty quaffer.
Markham Vineyards Merlot, Napa Valley (SRP $29): I think even Miles from Sideways would appreciate the Markham Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot. Rich, ripe, and decadent, Markham’s Merlot showcases what The Napa Valley does best-produce deep, dark, full-bodied wines that New World red wine drinkers adore. A pioneer for Merlot from the beginning, winemaker Kimberly Nicholls coasts the best out of Markham’s 260 acres of Napa Valley vineyards, and this delicious Merlot is no exception.
Cantine Ermes Quattro Quarti, Nero d’Avola Appassimento (SRP $18): Jumping across the pond for this juicy red wine, The Cantine Ermes Quattro Quarti Nero d’Avola Appassimento is a mouthful to say, but an especially delightful mouthful to drink. The wine goes through the process of dehydration called appassimento, similar to the Ripasso and Amarone wines you find in Italy’s Veneto region. The fact that this wine comes from Sicily makes it all the more interesting to me. This dehydration boosts the alcohol and the fruity aromas of the wine, both of which were pleasing to me. The Nero d’Avola Appassimento is especially good with lamb. Try pairing it with a grilled rack of lamb with charred red pepper strips. So good!
Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha (SRP $19): Another rich, ripe red is the Tres Picos Garnacha from Bodega Borsao, a renowned leader in the Garnacha variety in Spain. In fact, in 2000, Borsao was the first 100% Garnacha produce in Spain. The wine contains huge amounts of ripe red fruit aromas and flavors with soft tannins that make it approachable and quite pleasant with a wide range of cuisine. I’d recommend giving the bottling a 10-15 minute chill in the fridge before opening.
Borsoa Tres Picos
Trapiche Malbec Terroir Series: Because I couldn’t pick one, I’m recommending all three Trapiche Malbec Terroir Series Malbecs. The sites vary in elevation, age, and overall terroir, and provide a snapshot of the evolution of Malbec in Argentina, All three are planted at more than 3,000 feet above sea level, and the soils range from largely limestone, to gravel, to clay deposits, and combinations of the three along with several other subsoils. Perhaps you can decide.
Coletto (SRP $35): Sourced from 11-year-old vineyards at an elevation of 3,697 feet above sea level, the Coletto bottling produces a Malbec of deep and dark colors, aromas, and flavors. Although brooding in its makeup, the Coletto Malbec is surprisingly sweet, juicy, and fresh with a long, elegant finish. The wine also offers more and more flavors and a lighter expression as it opens. I would suggest decanting several hours prior to consumption.
Ambrosia (SRP $35): Sourced from younger nine-year-old vineyards at an even higher elevation of some 4,288 feet above sea level, the Ambrosia bottling served up more spice and herbal notes in addition to the traditional aromas and flavors of dark red fruits Argentine malbecs are so famous for. I also found a bit more minerality in the Ambrosia, but with the same gripping tannins and a long, lingering finish.
Orellana (SRP $35): Finally, there is the Orellana from 61-year-old vineyards at an elevation of 3,247 feet above sea level. Softer, more complex, and more approachable than the other bottlings, I also found elegance and grace to this Malbec that I have not often encountered. It reminded me somewhat of a well-made Graves from Bordeaux with hints of balsamic and fresh herbs. I guess if I could just pick one of the three Trapiche Malbec Terroir Series, it would be the Orellana.
Larkmead Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley (SRP $125): Finally, I leave you with an “If I only could afford that wine” recommendation, the Larkmead Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Sourced from a blend of different blocks from Larkmead’s 110-acre Calistoga estate, the wine is an expression of Larkmead’s uniquely diverse site and winemaking style. While other Napa producers rely on power and extract, Larkmead winemaker, Avery Heelan, producing her first vintage of Larkmead Cabernet with that title, instead lets the terroirs and the grapes tell their story, and it is an elegant, sophisticated, and delicious one! Complex and long, this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon is a truly excellent expression of Napa Valley Cabernet specifically, and Cabernet Sauvignon the world over!
Cheers, and happy summer. Stay cool and hydrated out there!