Wine Ink: Summertime wines – it’s the best season for a reason | SierraSun.com

Wine Ink: Summertime wines – it’s the best season for a reason

Kelly J. Hayes
Wine Ink

There is no better time to drink wine than the summertime.

Sipping a Rosé on the back patio after work, lingering over a glass of Chardonnay while enjoying a long lunch with the ladies, taking a healthy guzzle of a jammy Zinfandel with a burger around the BBQ. It's all good.

And the best thing about it is that, like the season itself, summer wines are casual and comfortable. It's not about impressing anyone or breaking the bank trying to find just the perfect pairing. No, it's all about hanging out and enjoying the moment. Summer wines are great because they are unpretentious, inexpensive and, I'll say it again, casual.

So, what to drink this summer?

Let's start with something that sparkles, is fun and a bit frothy. Prosecco has exploded in popularity in the American market over the last few years and one of the most reliable makers is the Zonin family and their Casa Vinicola Zonin: the largest privately held winery in Italy.

Zonin Prosecco NV is made from 100 percent Glera grapes, which are grown in the Veneto region of Italy. Until 2009, when Italian wine officials changed the complicated rules to be more complicated rules, the Glera grape was known as Prosecco.

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But now, in order to separate the region where Prosecco comes from as a DOCG, the top tier of wines in Italy, and the grape, they reverted back to Glera for the name of the grape. That will be on the test, so pay attention.

The Zonin Prosecco NV is low in alcohol (11 percent), refreshing and slightly off-dry. Great acidity and a touch of creamy mouth feel make this a perfect summer sipper. Oh, and the bottle looks more expensive than the price, which comes in at less than $15.

Sauvignon Blanc is a grape that can be many things to many people depending upon how it is vinified, or made. While I like a grassy green Savvy from New Zealand or a crispy, clean SB from Bordeaux, there are also great variations from California.

A fave is the Benziger 2014 North Coast Sauvignon Blanc, which also comes in at around $15 a bottle. I hum that song about them, "little green apples," when I sip this wine. This is a wine that is great on its own, but also pairs well with fruit and a summer salad, maybe even a Waldorf Salad. It's a pairing I just may try this summer.

For some, red wines rule, even in the summer time and though good Pinot Noir has risen sharply in price, if you look hard you can still find a bargain or two. A great value is the 2013 La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir.

Owned by Kendall Jackson, the La Crema brand is about to explode with new bottlings from their recently purchased properties in Oregon, and they are also to about open a new estate at the acclaimed Sara Lee's vineyard in the Russian River Valley.

The amazing thing about this rich, lush wine is that winemaker Elizabeth Grant-Douglas is able to maintain consistency on such large production. Listed at $25 a bottle, you frequently can find it at just under 20 bucks.

For something a bit bigger, it's time to hit the road, this time for a trip to South Africa's Mulderbosch Vineyards. Located in the Western Cape, the folks at Mulderbosch have produced a regal bottling of a Bordeaux Blend they call the Faithful Hound.

The 2013 Mulderbosch Faithful Hound leads with Cabernet Franc and features all five Bordeaux varietals. Rich and flavorful with firm but not overpowering tannins, this one will be just the ticket when you splurge on that big rib-eye steak.

Of course, burgers are the perfect protein in the summer months and to me the best wine and grilled burger connection is Zin, as in Zinfandel. Right now, the Zins that are getting my vote are the old vine beauties that come from the heat of central California and the Lodi region.

A solid choice from the area, specifically the Lodi-Mokelumne River AVA, are the wines made by the Klinker Brick Winery. Their "Old Ghost" old-vine Zin is exceptional, but the Klinker Brick 2013 "Old Vine" Zinfandel is a steal for a suggested retail price of just $19. A touch smoky, a touch earthy and a touch spicy, the slightly sweet taste of fruit from the 85-year-old vines make this a perfect wine to take a big gulp of after that first bite of burger.

Hungry yet? I'll bet you're thirsty, too.

Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be-designated appellation of Old Snowmass, Colo.. with his wife, Linda, and black Lab named Vino. He can be reached at malibukj@aol.com.

3 things to look out for this summer

1. Think Different: Try wines made from grapes that are a little bit different from what you might normally drink. Maybe try an Alberino from Spain or a Vinho Verde from Portugal instead of Sauvignon Blanc. Perhaps a Malbec from Argentina or a Cabernet Franc from California instead of a Cabernet Sauvignon. You might like what you try.

2. Take a Trip in a Glass to a New Region: Rather than just heading to the Napa section or Wines of France displays in your liquor store, look for something a touch more far-flung. Have you tried wines from Washington? How about the Nero de Avola from southern Italy? Perhaps a Chilean Carmenere? Part of enjoying wine is taking a trip to somewhere new.

3. Boxes and Cans: Whaaat??? Yes the alternative packaging movement is producing better wines than ever before. You drink beer out of cans now, right? So give a box wine or a canned wine a shot. Underwood wines in cans from Oregon are definitely quaffable and the Bandit brand in tetra-paks, especially the Pinot Grigio, is a great choice as well. And these babies travel well into the backcountry.

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Under The Influence

2013 Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot: OK, it may be a splurge ($54), and a wine for a special occasion, but this gem from the Merlot pioneer of the Napa Valley shows that they have not just maintained quality but have gotten better with time. A blend of wines from many of the best vineyards in the Valley with a healthy dose from the fabled “Three Palms Vineyard,” this is a wine that is deep, complex and age-worthy. Of course, I couldn’t wait and quaffed it with a rack of beef ribs, slow-cooked over a low fire on Memorial Day. Happy summer.