17 Wines Perfect for Sipping this Summer
When the mercury rises, so does our desire to drink, in this case, bright, swiftly refreshing summer wines, both white and pink. Here are some of our summer-ready faves, many of which are available through grocery stores and beverage chains.
Those with websites listed can be purchased directly from the producers. You might find a new wine club to join! Happy sipping!
2016 Stolo Sauvignon Blanc, Cambria, 13.6%, $25
Zippy aromas of fresh grass, gooseberry, grapefruit and fresh pineapple lead the way to a refreshingly drenching experience on the palate. It practically oozes tangerine and lime on the super smooth palate. This is the kind of Sauvy we can drink all afternoon, by the pool, on the patio, or on the yacht (or dinghy). Enjoy with some marinated calamari or seared scallops with grapefruit on lemon olive oil dressed frisée. Screwtops rule! (stolofamilyvineyards.com)
2016 Shooting Star Sauvignon, Lake County, 13.5%, $14
Super juicy, pineapple, guava and ripe melon make this super-affordable and lovable SB a favorite for those who like something a little more interesting than your average, somewhat insipid version of this grape. Lake County is fab place to grow this varietal, and this is a great example, made by one of the pioneers of this region, Jed Steele, who named his brand after the legendary Tecumsah, an Indian Chief born in 1768 during a meteor shower. Buy this by the case. And enjoy the stars on your tongue and in your head.
2016 Gamble Family Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, 13.1%, $25
From true Loire and Bordeaux clones, including Musque de Loire, Preston (from Graves), Loire clone 530 and Bordeaux clone 316, this is complex and pretty stuff, with a definitive pedigree. It was barrel fermented (75%), with the balance in stainless. Native yeast accentuates deep notes of apricot, passionfruit, ginger root and candied pineapple, countering the tangy lime, cantaloupe, grapefruit pith and kiwi fruit that make up its core. Rich but not weighty, it’s a unifying style, and a true value.
2016 Wrath “AL” Sauvignon Blanc, 12.9%, $7.50-$7.99/375ml can
Yep, it’s here: Monterey’s first luxury SB in a can, and just in time for summer sipping. Out of winemaker Sabrine Rodems deep bag of magic tricks comes this SIP certified beverage from the estate San Saba Vineyard, noted for its refreshing aromas and flavors of lime, acacia blossoms, pine, celery seed, guava and winter melon. The AL and 13 on the can represent the atomic element and periodic table number for aluminum. Crisp, clean wine in a can? It’s elemental. See, wine drinking does make you smarter: you just learned something, didn’t you?!
2015 Kung Fu Girl Riesling,Washington, $12.99
With an artsy-fun label inspired by Kill Bill, this stuff exudes that telltale petrol that we lovers of Riesling are known to swoon over. Fruit comes largely from the Evergreen Vineyard in Washington, home of the Eroica Riesling that established Chateau St. Michelle’s dominance with this varietal. Nowhere near Mercedes tailpipe, it is more like the promise of a flight in a hot air balloon. It nods every so slightly at sweet, but never gets there, offering muddled flavors of crisp apple, celery, and fruit cocktail, along with fresh grass, lime zest and lemon verbena. Would be great with sushi and lots of wasabi or five spice duck. Bring it on! At Safeway.
2016 Stolo Gewurztraminer, Cambria, 13.1%, $25
This vibrant GW from a coastal vineyard in Cambria (north of San Luis Obispo), tickles your nose with a bit of rosewater, orange zest, wet stone and pink grapefruit, like a good Gewurztraminer should. Pleasantly assertive but not flagrantly aggressive, it’s got good acid, a lively texture, lime, tangerine and grapefruit, all framed by candied ginger. A very pretty wine that never loses its grip, it leaves you with a finish of fresh mandarin orange. Juicy and lip-smacking: a pure twistoff delight. Try their Pinot rosé, too. This winery is a find! (stolofamilyvineyards.com)
2016 Sarah’s Vineyard Vin Gris of Pinot Noir, Santa Clara Valley, $22
This utterly delicious Pinot Noir-based beverage, oozing peach, apricots and strawberries, is Sarah’s gift to those who enjoy clean, bright, refreshing roses that are weightless on the palate, and effortless to drink. One of the standouts of the lot for its freshness and liveliness. Proprietor Tim Slater has found the highwire and this wine is determined to sachet across it without looking down. A brilliant effort! Tasting room only.
2016 Chronic Cellars “Pink Pedals” Rosé, Paso Robles, $15
Made of 87% Syrah and 13% Grenache, by brothers Josh and Jake Becket, this wildly fruit-driven and slightly sweet (RS, .81) pink treat is just the thing for patio parties featuring fish tacos. Easy to love with strawberry, Rainier cherries and watermelon, it’s edged with red twizzler and it’s amped up by a twist of pink lemonade. The label is adorable: just plain fun, and available at Safeway. A sure hit.
2016 Josh Cellars Rosé, California, 12.5%, $14
Sassy, tart and tinged with just a hint of tannin to stand up to poke or a spicy salsa, this wine, made from grapes sourced from the Central coast of California, exhibits juicy strawberry, white peach, citrus and cranberry. Widely available.
2015 Cambria Rosé of Pinot Noir, $25
Lighter style, befitting a Pinot rosé, with graceful aromas of rose petals and even sandalwood, and dominated by cherry, raspberry and watermelon, along with strawberry pink lemonade notes. Works nicely with food, as it has distinctive acid, and just a touch of tannin at the finish. Suggested pairing: cast iron BBQ shrimp.
2016 Kendall Jackson Vintners Reserve Rosé, 13%, $17
Made of primarily Mendocino-sourced 72% Pinot Noir and 16% Syrah, this offers watermelon and white flowers, and a hint of apricot, along with pale strawberry. Pretty simple, quaffable stuff that you associate with patio pounders.
2016 La Crèma Rosé of Pinot Noir, Monterey, 13.5%, $20
Very light and easy breezy, this one comes on with some watermelon, strawberry koolaid, orange kiss and a squeeze of rhubarb juice. It is blessed with a wee bit more body than the KJ. Another patio pounder in which you can actually discern some varietal character. Available at Safeway.
2016 Barrymore by Carmel Road Rosé of Pinot Noir, Monterey, 13%, $18
Shazzam! This has style and presence: something not always found in Pinot Noir rosé. Strawberries, stonefruit and red currants do a fandango in the glass, and you’ll enjoy the sleek texture that skates like a kitesurfer with a brisk wind billowing the sail and headed for a shoreline of deliciousness. Plenty of crisp acidity makes this a standout. Drew, who knew you had such impressive taste!
2015 Mia Bea Chardonnay, Mendocino, $22
From the Barra Family of Mendocino comes this pleasant, apple turnover kissed with lemon icing rendition of Chardonnay. Just crisp enough, with just enough buttery pastry edges to keep it interesting and appealing. Well balanced and easy to enjoy. Bea is the beloved grandmother and wife of grapegrower, Peter Barra. Bea was born in Mexico to Dutch parents and lived her life in the Redwood Valley. Her granddaughters created the wines in her honor. A sweet tribute to a lovely woman. Gold medal and Best of Mendocino at 2016 Harvest Challenge.
2015 Dierberg Chardonnay, Star Lane Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley, 13.8%, $32
Sleek in every way, this mouthpleasing beverage is all about texture, with flavors of ripe pear, melon, quince and just a hint of lime oil. Really pretty wine with a hint of flaky cream cheese pastry on the edges. For those who appreciate the silk and not the butter. Classy.
2015 Kunde Chardonnay, Sonoma Valley, 13.8%, $18
Nose-tingling aromas of key lime and honey tangerine, along with crisp green apple, signal this will be a lighter style of Chardonnay. The palate reveals smooth ripe pear and vanilla crème brulée, topped with delightful lemon meringue. From a 2k acre estate that has been in the family for 5 generations: now that’s history! Easy to drink and love, and easy to recommend. At Safeway and elsewhere.
2014 Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay, 40th Anniversary Edition, 14.1%, $55
July 4th, 2017, marks the 40th anniversary of when Mike Grgich and Austin Hills of the Hills Bros. Coffee family, established Grgich Hills Cellar in Rutherford. So, Miljenko, aka, “Mike” and the rest of the Grgich family are celebrating with the varietal he’s best known for: Chardonnay. Aromas of toasty new oak greet you, but they never dominate this well-made wine that floods the palate with bright and juicy flavors of apple pie and ripe pear. Fermented in 60-gallon French oak, 70% of which were new, this will please those who enjoy the flood of warm wood across the palate, married to lively acidity and a touch of minerality. Pair with crab cakes or pan-roasted halibut or rock cod with beurre blanc.
Happy Summer Sipping, everyone!
BY: LAURA NESS, WINE JUDGE & WINE WRITER
Laura Ness, aka “Her VineNess,” is an accomplished wine journalist and wine critic whose passion for wine was ignited by a visit to France, where she had the unmatched pleasure of tasting Sancerre in the medieval town of Sancerre – splendid!— and then a Saumur, after visiting the Chateau de Saumur in Chinon. The concept of terroir came alive in those incandescent moments. She regularly judges wine competitions and serves on the tasting panels of the Pinot, Cabernet and Chardonnay Shootouts. She was instrumental in helping define the unique sub-regions of the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA in concert with Appellation America. You can usually find her sipping and smiling in Mendocino, Livermore, the Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Cruz Mountains and Paso Robles. Laura writes extensively for many industry and consumer publications, and has weekly wine columns in several Bay Area newspapers. She blogs, irreverently and sporadically, at myvinespace.com.