It’s time for me to prepare my list of summertime wine quaffers. There’s no doubt I drink a heck of a lot of crisp, refreshing white wines in the heat and humidity of a Kansas City summer, but that doesn’t mean red wines have to be banished. I’ll have some thoughts on those down the road.
Today, I focus on white wines and a sparkler or two.
Sinor LaVallee Albarino, Bassi Vineyard, San Luis Obispo ($26): Mike Sinor is one of the nicest people I’ve met in wine country anywhere in the world. My wife and I tasted his three levels of wine at his Bassi Vineyard: White label, black label, and estate bottled.
Sinor expresses the essence of San Luis Obispo’s coastal vineyards. The sea breezes and mineral-rich soils give the wines, in this case a stunning Albarino, biting acidity and a solid mineral backbone to go along with rich, ripe fruit flavors developed over a long growing season. Buy six of these if you can as I think this wine will continue to develop for a good 2 to 3 three years!
J Vineyards & Winery, Pinot Gris, California ($20): One of my favorite domestic Pinot Gris producers, J turns out a lovely version year after year. Sweet fruit notes are balanced by some spice and a nice base of minerality to create a complete and lovely wine. J’s Pinot Gris hits all the right notes for someone who wants flavor and balance in their wine without the oak and extract.
Peter Zemmer, Pinot Grigio Alto Adige, Italy ($18.99): From one of the most respected producers in Italy’s lovely Alto Adige region comes a Pinot Grigio with layers of fruit buttressed by brilliant acidity. Higher elevation vineyards and lower yields combine for a balanced wine that is the perfect reflection of its terroir. If you’ve never had a Pinot Grigio from Alto Adige, this is one to try!
Jermann, Pinot Grigio Friuli-Venezia, Italy ($30): If you’re going to treat yourself to a higher-end Pinot Grigio, this might be the wine for you. Layered and complex with notes of white peaches, green apples and bananas, this is a creamier, fuller-bodied style of Pinot Grigio that is worthy of pairing with any chicken or pork you may have coming off the grill or out of the smoker.
Famille Hugel, Pinot Blanc Cuvée Les Amours, Alsace ($15): Perhaps the best value of the bunch, this delicious Alsatian Pinot Blanc (a cousin to Pinot Gris), delighted me with tons of ripe tree fruit, just a hint of sweetness, and wonderful, bracing acidity. My wife and I paired it with a grilled chicken salad, and it could not have been a better match.
Whitehaven, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand ($20): Of the many Marlborough Sauvignons I’ve tried over the years, Whitehaven ranks among the best and most consistent. With classic notes of grapefruit and passionfruit, Whitehaven balances things out with hints of fresh-cut grass and a little lemongrass. Drink this wine well-chilled to keep those flavors and aromas in check.
La Crema Russian River Valley, Chardonnay, Sonoma ($30): As the pendulum continues to swing back to more balanced and restrained California Chardonnays, I am continually impressed by La Crema’s quality and consistency. This wine, hailing from the heart of Sonoma County, has long been a favorite. Packed with tons of citrus, apple and lemon flavors and aromas, the La Crema Russian River Valley Chardonnay keeps things in check with a core of minerality and some nice acidity.
Domaine Anderson, Chardonnay, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County ($29): A beauty from Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley, Domaine Anderson’s Chardonnay is layered, elegant and sumptuous. With aromas of honeysuckle and stone fruit, the wine toes the fine line between extract and acidity with the grace of a ballet dancer.
Clos Pegase, Chardonnay, Mitsuko’s Vineyard, Carneros, Napa Valley ($30): Carneros has long been Napa’s bastion for well-made Chardonnay, but this one from top-line producer Clos Pegase rises above the crowd. With flavors of peach, melon and a little coconut, the wine marries its bright flavors with equally bright acidity. Another food wine, I’d like to see how the Clos Pegase Chard does with a lovely grilled or smoked pork tenderloin.
Finally, I leave you with two sparkling wines, one a classic Champagne and the other, a lovely bottling from Mendocino’s cool Anderson Valley.
Laurent-Perrier, La Cuvee Brut, France ($49.99): I just can’t resist a bottle of good Champagne and this is one of the best. Laurent-Perrier has been crafting top-notch Champagne for two centuries. This bottling, its flagship non-vintage brut, has everything you want in a Champagne balance: finesse, elegance and lip-smackingly delicious flavors. If you’re going to give yourself a summer treat, why not let Laurent-Perrier Brut be it?
Scharffenberger, Brut NV, California ($19.99): If you’d rather have two bottles of sparkling wine and then enough left for a bottle of Ruffino Pinot Grigio, this is the sparkler for you. I’ve long been a fan of the wines of this Mendocino County sparkling wine specialist. A blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir, Scharffenberger Brut is aged about two years on the lees. The result is a toasty, full-bodied sparkler available at a fraction of the price of most Champagne.