Now that the temperatures have turned a corner for many of you in four-season states, thoughts turn to summer wines to enjoy on the patio or boat. We’re talking sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, pinot gris, riesling, viognier, and the like.
Wines such as sauvignon blanc have the crisp acidity to marry well with fresh produce coming into season. Usually dry and free of oak, sauvignon blanc can range in style from the grassy New Zealand version to the softer, grapefruit dominant wines from the West Coast. They are great sippers but also go well with herb-based sauces.
Another favorite at this time of the year is pinot grigio, which also has a range in style of sweetness. We like the drier versions because they do much better with food. Acidity can balance the sweetness yet retain the fruit character, but not all pinot grigio producers do that.
Pinot gris is another name for pinot grigio, but pinot blanc is a distant cousin.
Burn the socks and enjoy these 12 interesting white wines to get you into the mood:
Chalone Chenin Blanc 2017 ($40). Chenin blanc is the grape variety most often associated with Vouvray in France, but other countries, including South Africa, have been making their own versions. This one from Chalone is very special and remarkable. Using grapes planted by a French immigrant 100 years ago, Chalone has crafted a tantalizing wine redolent of apple, pear and tangerine flavors. There is a good dose of mineral and acidity to keep the wine crisp and just slightly sweet.
Swanson Vineyards Pinot Grigio 2018 ($19). We loved this balanced and fruity pinot grigio from the San Benito region of California. Lots of pear, peach, and apricot flavors with a dash of citrus and good acidity to keep the sugar in check.
Santa Cristina Pinot Grigio 2018 ($12). We liked this wine from Antinori because it had green apple and pineapple notes instead of the ripe stone fruit notes associated with many pinot grigios.
Eberle Winery Cotes-du-Robles Blanc 2018 ($24). Using grenache blanc, roussanne and viognier grapes, this take-off on Cotes du Rhone is from the Paso Robles region of California. This dry wine is refreshing with bright acidity and sporting pear and stone fruit flavors.
Chehalem Three Vineyards Pinot Gris 2016 ($20). Generous floral and ginger aromas are chased by a racy peach and apricot flavors with hints of spice and lemongrass. The crisp acidity balances out the fruity character of the grape variety and makes for an excellent match to seafood and fowl
Beckmen Vineyards Cuvee le Bec Santa Ynez Valley 2017 ($25). Beckmen uses red Rhone grape varieties and whole cluster fermentation to create a refreshing, brisk melange of black fruit flavors and aromas of lavender and licorice.
Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier 2017 ($21). This highly aromatic and refreshing viognier comes from Australia’s Eden Valley. Stone fruit permeates the aromas and flavors.
Santa Barbara Winery Riesling Santa Rita Hills Lafond Vineyard 2016 ($17). This is a very reasonably priced, food-friendly white wine that drinks a bit off dry to balance riesling’s natural high acidity. Smooth delivery features a peach nose and flavors and a nice smooth finish.
Bouchard Pere & Fils Pouilly-Fuisse 2017 ($30). French wine for less than $50? This is a delightful white chardonnay from the Macon region of France. Very clean and refreshing with apple notes and a mineral edge. Ready to drink now
Cedar + Salmon Wilamette Valley Pinot Gris 2018 ($19). We liked the fresh acidity and pure fruit flavors of this Oregon pinot gris. Stone fruit flavors with a hint of lemon and mineral.
Pierre Spar Pinot Blanc Reserve 2016 ($17). Peach and granny apple flavors with a dash of spice and beautiful mineral notes. Good acidity and long on the palate. The additional bottle age mellows out this terrific wine.
Peter Zemmer Pinot Grigio Reserva “Giatl” 2015 ($38). You don’t often see a reserve pinot grigio – perhaps because it is an oxymoron or, more likely, no one wants to pay this kind of money for pinot grigio. However, it demonstrates what can be done with pinot grigio. This gem comes from the best 6 acres of a 24-acre vineyard. A small amount of this wine is made for adoring audiences who enjoy the golden color, lush palate and oak-inspired flavors. Pear aromas with juicy tropical fruit flavors.
FEL Savoy Vineyard Chardonnay 2016 ($48). We enjoyed the balance and finesse in this elegant single-vineyard chardonnay from Anderson Valley. Forward tropical fruit and citrus flavors cloaked in a lushly textured mouthfeel.
Grounded Wine Company Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($25). A relative newcomer among producers, this producer is making wine using grapes from Washington, Oregon and California. This cabernet, blended with malbec and merlot, comes from grapes grown in the Columbia Valley’s Red Mountain. Good structure with moderate tannins and ripe plum and black cherry flavors. Soft in the mouth, it has hints of vanilla and clove.
Stony Hill Vineyard Chardonnay 2016 ($54). We liked the balance in this estate-grown chardonnay from Spring Mountain. Tasted in a flight of California chardonnays, it soared to the top because of its firm acidity. A good food chardonnay, it has some mineral notes that identify the soil and nuanced apple flavors. Unlike many chardonnays, it is not over-oaked.