Five Wines of Summer

   The dark days of Winter are gone, and Summer is approaching, which means its time for Backyard Barbecues, seemingly endless days,  and warm nights staring at the stars. So while you’re burning the midnight oil trying to soak in every last drop I’ve put together five wine varietals that will please the palate and the pocketbook all season long.  

   First, let us start with the highly accessible Syrah.  Easily found in most supermarkets, it is a perfect choice to bring to a friends house where there will be some grilling, potato chips, and dips or the usual classics that occupy most suburban backyards. A  Syrah with its beautiful deep purple color is a great wine to kick off the evening with no food required, but it really shines next to barbecued meats, sour pickles, and sharp cheddars. On the nose, you will find hints of Blueberry and Plum, with traces of leather, espresso, and clove.  This wine features medium acidity and a long finish, which means that a pulled pork sandwich with tangy coleslaw is a match made in heaven.

   Most people know what Pinot Noir is because it is one of the most popular varietals in the United States.  But a slightly lesser known variety, French Burgundy featuring the same popular Pinot Noir grape fits just as nicely while your feet dangle in the pool with a good book or on a candlelit table at your favorite French Bistro.   As you swirl this beautiful ruby red wine and put the glass up to your nose, you will find complex aromas of tart cranberry, pastille candy, and earthy notes that when you close your eyes might take you deep into the French countryside.  With its high acidity and low tannins, it goes well with a mushroom pasta with shaved parmesan, duck foie gras, chicken liver pate, and it is the perfect pairing for a Blackened Salmon Caesar Salad.

    We all love red wine, but when the temperature heats up, there is nothing more refreshing than a crisp glass of white, to quench your thirst, and accompany your culinary creations.  One of my absolute favorites is a Spanish Albarino. Don’t let its light appearance fool you because as you breathe deep into the glass, a bit of magic happens with subtle hints of mango, melon, nectarine, and green apple on the nose, and an almost a bubbly sensation on your tongue from its pleasing acidity.   It finishes clean with a lasting impression of smooth river rock from a faraway blue lagoon. So break out the chaise lounge while keeping it classy with some Ritz crackers and your favorite spread or fire up the party with some smoked Whitefish Crostini and Capers.

    For my other white, I picked a  bit of sleeper called Assyrtiko which comes from the little volcanic island of Santorini of the coast of Greece where viticulture dreams are made.  The mix of the salty ocean air brushing up against the rich lava rock produces a wine that is truly spectacular and stands out from the usual crowd of Sauvignon Blancs and oaky California Chardonnays. Pale yellow in color once this wine graces your nose, it teases your senses with passion, fruit, honey, and lime. When you take the first sip, you will find bright acidity with hints of lemon and prominent minerality liken to that of wet limestone after heavy rain. With its bone dry finish it pairs exceptionally well with a Lamb Burger smothered in tzatziki sauce, Spaghetti Vongole, or my personal favorite fish tacos with coleslaw, pickled red onions,  and fresh guacamole. Don’t forget a generous amount of feta crumbles for that Greek touch.

   Summer wines would not be complete without a great rose.   Unfortunately, the uniquely American White Zinfandel has somewhat tarnished its reputation with its sweet candy-like qualities and its consistent ability to leave you with a headache, so my advice is to leave the boxed version behind.   A more traditional Rose, on the other hand, is a token symbol of Summer, and no beach day or late afternoon meal in your local sidewalk cafe would be complete without one. Some of my favorites come from Puglia, Italy. They are delicate,  quite dry, and feature smooth tannins with medium acidity that can stand up to a wide variety of foods. These particular Rosatos get their deep pink color from a 16-24 hour maceration of the red grapes Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera which imparts the nose with a variety of red fruits like strawberry, plum, and black cherry, with some secondary notes of prunes and dried thyme. Counter to what you may think these wines are big and bold.  They are just asking to be teamed up with dishes like Steak and Frites, or creamy crab risotto but still, work well with your favorite Brat topped with sauerkraut and a generous amount of stone ground mustard.

   Summer is all about following the sun and having an adventure.  It should be a time to let go and worry a little bit less, so with that in mind I picked these varietals to give you some no brainers that will be delicious no matter what the occasion. Whether its outside on the deck soaking up some rays, an afternoon picnic,  or an exclusive rooftop party, bring the shades because these wines might just make you the star of the show.


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