Wine Country

What’s Hot for Summer

Picks that suit the palate and the pocketbook

By Angela Sanchez

Wine tastes change a bit during the long, hot days of summer. I want something perfect for sitting outside enjoying the evening with family, or grilling over a hot fire with friends and enjoying a light, summer meal. It’s a great time to rethink the tried-and-true wines like chardonnay, pinot noir and cabernet. I’ve recently tasted three beautiful, expressive wines that are lighter, less serious and easy on the budget.

For a great patio sitting, gossiping with friends, grilling with your favorite people, or just enjoying a glass on a lazy afternoon wine, I love a rosé from Provence. This clean style of rosé is dry, crisp, rich with minerality with the perfect chill on it. The up-front tart cherry, strawberry tastes, followed by a race of mineral and lime and nectarine, will cool you down while pairing perfectly with everything from fresh strawberries and blueberries to fresh tomatoes with basil, watermelon and barbecued chicken. The 83 Provence rosé is balanced with fruit and acidity, with a perfect pale pink color. A hint of lavender flower and orange on the finish keep it bright and easy drinking. Take it to the ladies’ brunch or the in-laws’ boat, it’s summer’s best friend.

Sokol Blosser’s Evolution No. 9, from just outside Dundee, Oregon, is the perfect summer white. A proprietary blend of nine grapes, all white varietals, is led by chardonnay and pinot gris. This wine’s fresh, bright, tropical fruit and herbaceousness shine through. With a bit of orange and grapefruit, along with some parsley and grassy notes, it pairs perfectly with summer salads loaded with fresh greens, avocado, and grilled shrimp or chicken. Try it with grilled or sautéed zucchini and squash or fresh-made hummus and cucumbers. Chardonnay drinkers will find it rich and round enough to please their palates, while those who lean more toward a sauvignon blanc will experience the same fresh intensity they find in their favorites.

Whether it’s the middle of winter or a blazing hot day in midsummer, a good red is always on time. In summer it’s important to lighten it up with a style that uses less oak for aging and focuses more on enhancing the fruit, producing a balanced red wine with enough character to hold up to food but easy enough to handle a humid day, grill and poolside. Spain produces some beautiful red wines that drink beautifully in a hot, humid climate like ours. Castano Monastrell, a red varietal also known as Mourvedre, from the Yecla region, is a warm weather hit. It’s dark red in color but light enough on the palate to make a great glass of summer red. Produced from 30-year-old bush vines — not irrigated — on rocky limestone soil in the Mediterranean climate, the wine has generous dark red fruit and black pepper notes. A little spice character allows the wine to pair well with pork barbecue, burgers and grilled sausages. Lay it just on top of the ice in the cooler to get that perfect summer chill on it, cooling the tannins and making for easy sipping.

All three wines are excellent cheese pairings. The 83 rosé makes a nice friend to Beecher’s Flagship Cheddar. It is aged one year, developing a sharp cheddar bite along with a nice crumbly texture. One of the best pairings I’ve had recently is Sokol Blosser Evolution with Humboldt Fog. The cheese is produced from goat’s milk in the cool, maritime climate of Northern California. Both wine and cheese have tart, citrus and grassy notes, making them excellent complements. The red matches well with an aged goat cheese from Holland called Midnight Moon. Gouda has a sweet creamy taste and a little crystal crunch. The sweet cream character makes for a good pairing with the black pepper bite of the wine.   PS

Angela Sanchez owns Southern Whey, a cheese-centric specialty food store in Southern Pines, with her husband, Chris Abbey. She was in the wine industry for 20 years and was lucky enough to travel the world drinking wine and eating cheese.

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