My wife and I just returned from giving our loving labradoodle Lily a spin in the park, and I’m not sure who’s hotter — Lily, my wife or me. Summertime, whether the calendar shows it officially or not, is here!
The heat and humidity of a Kansas City summer (and this has all the earmarks of a really hot one!) often sends people scurrying inside for the sanctuary of air conditioning and the solace of a long, cool drink of water. While I’m all about hydrating, I refuse to be intimidated by the soaring temperatures and dripping humidity when it comes to drinking wine, especially when it pertains to pairing it with our summertime meals.
With that in mind, I started looking around my cellar and scouring the stores and internet in search of diverse, affordable, non-sweat inducing wines to match our summertime fare. I found many, so many in fact, that I decided to break this down into two columns: domestic and foreign. Here are some thoughts on domestic selections for summertime sipping.
I’ll start with rosé — hands-down our “go-to” wine for June, July, August and September. We normally gravitate to European rosés, especially those from Provence or The Rhone Valley, as they are the unchallenged leaders in dry, complex, delicious salmon-colored wines. This summer, however, we’ve found two domestic rosés we just love: the Kale Sonoma County Rosé and the Transcendence Rosé from Santa Barbara. Not surprisingly, both wines mimic the great roses of Provence in grape varieties, aromas and flavor. The Kale, a dead ringer for a Bandol rosé, is 97 percent Grenache and 3 percent Mourvedre, while the Transcendence, a bit higher in alcohol and heavier in the mouth, is 100 percent Granache. I found both on-line and can’t recommend them highly enough. I’d pair these wines with grilled chicken or salmon, but they’re also quite lovely on their own.
A second summer wine that’s always in my fridge is Sauvignon Blanc. Many domestic versions tend to be on the sweet side, not a quality I care for. This year, though, I’ve found two that hit the bull’s-eye with a lovely combination of fruit (often melon and lemon), grass and acidity. The Parducci Small Lot Blend from a longtime wine producing family in Northern Sonoma County is a steal at just $13, and the J. Lohr Carol’s Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc from St. Helena in the Napa Valley is a knockout! It will run you just under $25.
I’m not much of a California Chardonnay drinker, but I know a lot of people are, so I thought I’d toss in a new discovery that I enjoyed very much. I was familiar with MacRostie, a Sonoma County producer, but I had not tried their Sonoma Coast Chard. Leaning more toward lemon peel and green melon and younger (not overly ripe) pineapple flavors and aromas, the MacRostie Sonoma Coast Chardonnay is the perfect accompaniment to summertime salads or the aforementioned grilled chicken.
Many folks shy away from red wine during the dog days of summer, but I prefer to be a bit more selective. I don’t drink much Cabernet Sauvignon, domestic or foreign, in the summer, but I made an exception when I tasted the Murrieta’s Well red wine, The Spur. A blend of Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec, The Spur is a mix of classic Bordeaux varieties (with the exception of Petite Sirah), with a unique California expression. The wine is much more approachable than most young red wines from Europe, offering enticing aromas of black cherry and blueberry with hints of oak and spice. The Spur is perfect for burgers, steaks, or chops off the grill. In fact, I’m grilling up a Hatfield Ranch (Nodaway County’s finest) skirt steak tonight. The Spur might just be my wine of choice.
I’ll be back with some summertime selections from outside the U.S. soon. In the meantime, stay cool, stay hydrated and don’t be afraid to try a new wine or two with your summertime menus.
Dave Eckert was the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS and Wealth TV for 12 seasons.