Not long ago I sent along some thoughts and recommendations on white wines to help take the heat out of this Kansas City summer.
But man, at least not THIS man, does not live by white wines alone.
So I’ve compiled a list of red wines I’d gladly pop open on any hot day. I’ve put them in no order of preference, but rather, listed them by weight: light-bodied, medium-bodied, then fuller-bodied.
When considering a red wine to enjoy in the summer, I look for wines that can be served slightly chilled; have wonderful, fruity aromas; and are flexible with common summertime foods, which in Kansas City means anything off the grill or out of the smoker. One red wine that checks all those boxes is pinot noir.
Let’s start with three that I enjoy.
Mohua Pinot Noir 2015, Central Otago, New Zealand ($23.99): Because of its diversity of style and flexibility with cuisine, pinot noir is a terrific summertime wine. In my opinion, the wines of Central Otago, the southern-most wine growing region on the planet on New Zealand’s South Island, are going from one strength to another. Mohua’s is one of my favorites.
Slightly chill this well-balanced, lighter-bodied red with terrific acidity and serve it with everything from soft cheese like Brie or Camembert, harder cheeses such as Manchego or Grana Padano, or grilled items ranging from salmon to lamb.
Long Meadow Ranch 2015 Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County ($40): Like the Sonoma Coast, Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley is a cool climate appellation, perfect for cultivating Chardonnay and pinot noir.
Here, winemaker Stephane Vivier has crafted a California classic — a pinot noir with cherry and violet notes on the nose, earthiness on the palate, and a framework of minerality holding it all together. My pairing for this would be a dry-rubbed pork tenderloin hot off the grill with the pinot out of the fridge after about 10 minutes.
Talley Vineyards 2016 Estate Pinot Noir, San Luis Obispo ($42): I had the chance to visit Talley last fall. I came away thoroughly impressed.
The Talley family has been in the produce business for 70 years. They began growing grapes in 1982 and made their first wine in 1986. It was a good decision.
This signature red wine of Talley Vineyards is everything I want in a domestic pinot noir: balance, elegance, fruit and earth. This is a serious wine for serious cuisine like a grilled chicken with some spicy barbecue sauce or a savory mushroom risotto.
Domaine de Javerniere, Morgon, Beaujolais ($24.99): There are few wines I enjoy more in the summer (fall, winter, or spring) than cru Beaujolais. Comprising 100% Gamay grapes, cru Beaujolais represents the pinnacle of the region and the grape.
Morgons tend to be fuller-bodied than most of the other cru Beaujolais, and this one is no exception. Like all Beaujolais, however, the Domaine de Javerniere is loaded with tons of jammy, ripe fruit. The difference comes in the complexity of the fruit and the wine’s soft, but firm, tannic structure.
Give this bottling a slight chill, pop it open, and enjoy it all summer long.
Domaine Xavier & Agnès Amirault Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil Les Quarterons 2016, Loire Valley ($31.99): It’s a mouthful to say, but for the adventuresome, this is one delicious wine. Comprised of 100% Cabernet Franc from France’s lovely Loire Valley, this wine packs a wallop of raspberry and strawberry flavors as the nose offers up hints of licorice and smoke.
Did I say smoke?
Yep, this wine is a barbecue lover’s dream. Try it with those ribs you’ve been smoking all day and let me know when to come over.
Castello de Albola Chianti Classico DOCG, Tuscany ($18.99): I drink Chianti year-round as they are among the most flexible, delicious and affordable (quality versus price) wines on the planet.
In fact, I just picked up three of the Kirkland Chianti Classico Riserva wines at my local Costco for less than 9 bucks a bottle! They’re good, but this Chianti Classico from one of my long-time favorite producers is better.
Loaded with fresh fruits notes of strawberries red berries, the wine also has those Tuscan Sangiovese hallmark notes of herbs and earth. A slight chill won’t hurt this wine, nor would an oregano and garlic-marinated grilled chicken.
Tenuta de Fessina Estna Rosso, Sicily ($24.99): If you haven’t tasted the wines emanating from the Mount Etna area of Sicily, you’re missing some truly delicious juice.
A blend of native Sicilian varietals — Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, Minnella and Carricante — this wine is the complete package. Wild berries and spice hit the nose while soft tannins and fruity, spicy notes envelop the palate. Try pairing this wine with a pepper-crusted ahi tuna steak.
Marques de Caceres Rioja Crianza, Spain ($12): I had my first bottle of Marques de Caceres some 30 years ago, and I blush when I think about how many I’ve consumed since then. To say I’m a fan of their wines is an understatement.
This wine is the perfect entry point, to the wines of MDC — a bright, fruity Rioja framed by lovely notes of toasty oak and bracing acidity. Try this wine with any dish featuring garden-ripe tomatoes.
Ruffino Modus, Tuscany ($24.99): Using the Tuscan stalwart Sangiovese grape as the base, Ruffino adds 25% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon to create a classic super-Tuscan red wine.
Featuring hints of tobacco and spice along with aromas of bright, fresh red fruit, and a backbone of earth and tannin, this wine checks all the boxes in all the seasons. I’d save this big (ish) boy for a steak cooked medium-rare and seasoned with nothing more than salt and pepper.
7 Deadly Zins Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi, ($20): 7 Deadly Zins is an old vine Zinfandel from the Michael David Winery in the Lodi region of California. Michael David is a winery I visited while filming my television show, “Culinary Travels with Dave Eckert,” so I am familiar with both the wine and the winery’s story.
Lodi is famous for old vine Zin, which flourishes in the area’s heat. If you are a fan of Zinfandel in general, you will likely enjoy this wine quite a bit. It packs a lot of flavor along with plenty of alcohol, weighing in at 15%. Definitely not a sipper, this is a wine to help wash down a perfectly smoked beef brisket over a long weekend, like the one coming up soon!
Dave Eckert is a longtime Kansas City food and beverage journalist. He was the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS and AWE for 12 seasons. Follow Dave’s eating and drinking experiences on Instagram at @eatsanddrinkswithdave.