Chow Town

With temps heating up, several wine experts share what they are uncorking

With the heat of summer nearly upon us, its time to rethink your wine selections. Roses are Dave Eckert’s go-to wines when the temps soar.
With the heat of summer nearly upon us, its time to rethink your wine selections. Roses are Dave Eckert’s go-to wines when the temps soar.

It’s about that time of year — the time when the temperature and humidity soar, the cicadas and mosquitoes attack, baseball rules and my wine selections go from mostly red to mainly white and pink.

Make no mistake about it, I will still gladly drink a full-bodied cabernet sauvignon, syrah or sangiovese in the dog days of the summer, but my “go-to” wines are definitely light and refreshing rather than heavy and complicated.

For my wife and me, that means a fridge stocked with crisp sauvignon blancs and beautiful dry roses. We’re not too picky on the brands, or even regions, as long as the sauvignon blancs aren’t sweet, oaky or over-the-top with grapefruit flavors and aromas. Brancott Estate from Marlborough, New Zealand, is one of my wife’s favorites and I recently had a Sonoma-Cutrer Sauvignon Blanc from Sonoma’s Russian River Valley, a first for me, that I really enjoyed.

As for roses, we just like ‘em dry and delicate. That generally means something from France. Roses from the appellations of Travel and Bandol are our personal favorites, but we love them all, as long as they’re dry. A recent surprise on the pink wine parade for us was the Mulderbosch Rose from South Africa. Made from 100 percent cabernet sauvignon, Mulderbosch’s Rose is a fuller-bodied rose, but still well-balanced with nice acidity and a clean, fresh finish. Other than that, I’ve been picking up every dry rose I can find in the $10 to $15 range, and even a few bottles of a $6 Rose from Bordeaux I found at Aldi.

So, that’s what we’ll be drinking at the Eckert house. I wanted to know what some of my wine drinking friends were planning on opening. Fortunately, I have a host of wine lovers across the country ready to share their secret summer stash with you and me.

Let’s start out west with a longtime friend of mine, Jim Caudill, public relations and hospitality director for Hess Family Estates. Caudill is one of the most knowledgeable wine folks I know, so I was curious to hear what he planned on popping as the Napa temperatures soared toward triple digits and beyond.

“There’s almost always a bottle of Pinot Noir open around my house. But, I’m finding the newly more lightly oaked, less malo chardonnays are finding their way into my glass,” Caudill said. “There’s a reason a lightly chilled chardonnay remains America’s most popular wine, and one of those reasons is found in the style of wines like the Hess Collection Napa Valley Chardonnay from the Su’skol vineyard near San Pablo Bay.”

I’ll forgive Caudill the hometown call, ‘cause, quite frankly, the Hess wines are terrific. And, Caudill also shared the love with these thoughts.

“Close behind? Almost anything from my winemaker friend Jesse Katz, but especially his Alexander Valley Devil Proof Malbec. Now, that starts a whole new conversation,” Caudill said.

I went up the coast a bit for my next bit of wine drinking information, to Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and iOTA Cellars/Pelos Sandberg Vineyard. iOTA is a new discovery for me. I love their wines, and would certainly enjoy sharing their summertime sippers.

“This is our summer of exploring Tuscany since we have a big family reunion trip this June and July. So, chiantis, vin santos, brunellos, and all walks of sangiovese along with a few new Italian whites,” Owner Lynne Pelos shared. “I hope we can find those white wines along the way since the temps will likely be toasty.”

I’ll conclude my summer wine roundup with information from a couple Chicago connections. I always love going to my hometown peeps to see what they’re popping. First up, Tom Hyland, wine educator and Italian wine expert. Like Pelos and the rest of the crowd at iOTA, Hyland is uncorking a host of Italian vino. Hyland said he loves sparkling and white wine, so he naturally gravitates towards those when the temperatures rise.

“A great value for Prosecco from Italy is the Villa Sandi Extra Dy from Proviso, which has more complexity than most examples under $15,” he said. “I also love the 2013 Jankara Vermentino di Gallura, an absolutely delicious aromatic white from Sardinia that pairs beautifully with all types of shellfish as well as seafood or vegetable risotto.”

Lastly, a guy I’ve known for 20 years, and someone who’s been in the wine business for nearly another 20, wine consultant Don Clemens. Like me, Clemens goes pink in the summer.

“I’m definitely going to be drinking more pink wines than usual this summer,” he said. “I’ve been rather smitten by roses from Germany and France from the 2014 vintage. So versatile, crisp, and just off-dry, they’re delightful and pair so well with so many different types of cuisine.”

Chill ‘em down, Don, I’ll be right there.

When I return, I’ll have the summertime musings from some members of our local wine community. I don’t know about you, but I’m in the mood for a glass of wine.

Dave Eckert is the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS-TV and Wealth TV for 12 seasons.