Page 6 of 23
It's OK to put on these wines after Memorial Day
By Ted Scheffler
With summer's close approach, it's time to pack away the dark flannels and change into summer whites. That goes for wine as well as attire. The heavy, bruising wines that got us through winter won't do for spring and summer concerts, picnics, barbecues and such. So, it's time to turn to lighter, refreshing, warm-weather white wines. Here are a few of my favorites, in part due to their bang-for-the-buck pricing. All will partner nicely with a wide variety of summertime cuisine.
During a recent dinner at Kobe Japanese Restaurant, we sipped glasses of a Spanish Rueda called Sitios de Bodega Con Class ($11.99). This is a heavenly white wine that worked wonders alongside everything from salty ramen to clean-tasting sashimi and spicy maki rolls. It's Sauvignon Blanc, with that varietal's grapefruit, guava and gooseberry flavors, blended with Verdejo and Vura, which lend roundness to the wine along with pineapple and melon notes.
Sauvignon Blanc also gets top billing in Château Bonnet Blanc ($12.49), a crisp, summery wine from France's Entre-Deux-Mers appellation. This classic white Bordeaux blend of 52 percent Sauvignon Blanc, 33 percent Sémillon and 15 percent Muscadelle is made by André Lurton, whose Bonnet vineyards date back to the 16th century. I saw a review of this wine wherein the writer described Château Bonnet Blanc as "nervous, expressive and intelligent." I can't begin to tell you what that means; all I'll say is that it's a well-balanced blend, with tropical fruit flavors and citrusy aromas. It's a terrific wine to sip by itself, but also a good partner for seafood and shellfish, chicken, salads, most veggies and almost anything else except strong cheeses and rich, heavy meats and sauces—an ideal picnic choice.
Although it's a bit of a splurge, a California white wine I like a lot is Curtis Heritage Blanc ($18.65), a great example of the Rhone-style wines made by Santa Barbara County's Curtis Winery. Head winemaker Chuck "Calypso" Carlson makes his wines in a fruit-forward style, and Heritage Blanc is no exception. It's a delicious blend of 60 percent Viognier and 40 percent Roussanne. The Viognier is fermented in stainless steel, which helps to maintain the Viognier's prototypical perfumed-fruit aromas and flavors. Meanwhile, Carlson partially ferments and ages the Roussanne in neutral French-oak barrels, which lends body and depth. It might be made in California, but the first sip will transport you to France.
Another great California wine with the same DNA—Viognier and Roussanne—is Atrea "The Choir" ($16.01). It's elegant and lovely, with Viognier's apricot aromas, plus honey notes from Roussanne. Stone fruits dominate on the palate. Quite simply, this is a knockout wine, and one of my go-to favorites.
I first learned of Italy's Maculan Pino & Toi from restaurateurs Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, who are big fans of this affordable wine, priced here at a mere $11.99. It's a lovely little white wine from the foot of the Italian Alps in Veneto that's perfect for springtime on the patio—a blend of 60 percent Tai (formerly called Tocai in Italy), 25 percent Pinot Bianco and 15 percent Pinot Grigio. It's intensely aromatic, with frilly floral aromas, but also crisp and clean on the palate—a nice match for vegetable risotto, white-sauced pizzas or grilled chicken.
Bubbly is always appropriate for summer sipping, and one of my favorite sparkling wines—perfect with a wide range of foods or just solo—is Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut ($25). It's slightly sweet and sensational on a sunny day.