The Wine Guy - Greg Walter


Refreshing wines ring in early summer

It really seems like winter completely disappeared right around January 1 this year. You can probably measure the rainfall we’ve had since then in a juice glass. The weather has been so nice that it already feels like June, even now in the middle of April. And even though my days are still consumed with tasting and exploring Pinot Noir, I have already moved full throttle into my summertime mode for wines: crisp, dry wines that can handle a chill are already taking up a solid shelf in my refrigerator.

Working at home like I do, when the weather starts to act like summer, there’s a change in the routine. I go into “passive cooling” mode hoping to push off the inevitable firing-up of the air conditioning. That means windows open at night and early morning, then shut and shades closed during the day.

That same movement into warmer weather triggers my wine consumption shift from mostly reds to white and rose wines.

If you’ve been reading this column for a while you probably know that I am a Sauvignon Blanc and Rose nut. But I drink a lot of other white wines as well. I’ve assembled a list below of some of the mostly local wines I am drinking right now and would recommend you check out.

Let me say up front, that these are not necessarily the most complex or most expensive wines of their respective types; some of them are great values. I’m buying these for casual sipping and sharing with friends — and so I’m much more concerned about finding wines I can afford to keep buying and enjoy all through the summer.

The lists below are organized by wine variety or type and the wines are listed in alphabetical order. Any of these qualify as “go to” wines as far as my summer sipping is concerned.

ROSE:  Lately I am finding myself really attracted to rosé wines. I love the brightness of the strawberry and other fruit flavors, but truthfully, I love the color of the wines as much as the wines themselves. It puts me in a better, more festive mood and they really make a meal feel like summertime!

Anaba Wines Turbine Pink Sonoma Valley 2012, $22

Bryter Estates Pinot Noir Rosé Sonoma Coast Gap’s Crown “Jubilee” 2012, $32

Cochon Old Vine Rose 2011, $21

R2 Wine Company Hannah Rose Rosé 2011, $18

SAUVIGNON BLANC: This is definitely the most frequently consumed white wine in my household or when I’m out. I love the crisp, bright-fruited styles and find that they really do pair well with any casual summer dishes. The Merriam bottling listed below is from outside the Sonoma Valley (actually just south of Healdsburg) but I mention it because it is definitely the best SauvBlanc I have had to date this year — really worth seeking out!

Bartholomew Park Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma Valley 2012, $24

Kunde Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma Valley Magnolia Lane 2011, $17

Merriam Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley “Danielle” 2012, $18

Schug Carneros Estate Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma Coast 2012, $20

CHARDONNAY: I am a very selective Chardonnay drinker. I do not really enjoy the over-oaked, big bruiser versions of this wine. I prefer those that offer more structure and elegance with the oak in the background, or no oak at all.

MacRostie Cellars Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2011, $25

St. Francis Winery Chardonnay Sonoma County 2010, $15

Sebastiani Vineyards Chardonnay Sonoma County 2011, $14

Sojourn Cellars Chardonnay Sonoma Coast Sangiacomo Vineyard 2011, $45

OTHER WHITES: There are a lot of other interesting white wines, from White Rhone blends to Riesling to Pinot Blanc/Pinot Gris. The common thread again for me is bright fruit and very crisp acidity, because that is what makes them the most versatile for sipping and pairing up with a meal. Here are several I like:

Anaba Wines Coriol White Rhone Blend Sonoma Coast 2010, $28

Gundlach Bundschu Gewurztraminer Sonoma Coast 2012, $22

Pey-Marin Riesling Marin County “The Shell Mound” 2011, $29

R2 Wine Co. Vin Blancs White Rhone Blend 2010, $24

Greg Walter has been in wine and food publishing for more than 30 years, 15 of which were spent as a senior editor and later president of Wine Spectator magazine. Today he writes the PinotReport newsletter (Pinotreport.com) and publishes books through his Carneros Press imprint (Carnerospress.com).


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