Summer is almost upon us. It’s time to start stocking warm-weather wines for the patio, picnic and poolside.I’ve been diving into a flood of whites and rosés over the last few weeks, and I’ve selected from that gushing inventory 10 summer wines that are worth trying. Some are special-occasion beauties; others show well for the price and could easily be your seasonal backyard wine, since buying a case won’t break the bank. Prices are best available from the usual local sources such as Hi-Time, Costco and Total Wine & More.Amelia Brut Rosé Crémant de Bordeaux ($19): Made from hand-harvested red grapes grown in the acclaimed Bordeaux region, this blend of 90 percent Merlot and 10 percent Cabernet Franc is a summer charmer. Amelia ages en tirage (on the lees) for 18 months, double the nine months required by law, giving it aromatic and textural complexity. You’ll also notice nuanced fruit components with a touch of toasty brioche.Anaba 2015 Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast ($36): This harvest’s low yield produced concentrated, bright fruit. You’ll get a bewitching duet of orange blossom and lemon custard on the nose. A strong acidic backbone combines with ripe fruit, lemon cream and sweet herb in a balanced finish. A great cool-climate California chardonnay from one of my favorite regions.Bodega de Edgar 2017 Albariño: ($24): This 100 percent Albariño from Paso Ono Vineyard, off Creston Road, in Paso Robles, is one of the area’s most coveted summer sippers. It’s fermented and aged in 100 percent stainless steel, and the result is a Spanish grape with a California accent: honey suckle, zesty lemon, honey and white floral notes. From one of Paso’s best smaller wineries, this beauty sells out quickly every year.Editor's Note: Try this gold medal-winning limited production Cava from Spain. Can't buy in stores, rare to find online. Limited production, limited edition Antoni Gaudi print. Recommended by Our Somms. We're working directly with the producer to offer this to you via our partner Argaux Wine Club from Laguna Beach. http://bit.ly/Cava4pk Perfect for summer BBQs or for taking to a friend's house. 4 bottles $65! The Calling Dutton Ranch 2016 Chardonnay Russian River Valley ($30): Intensely aromatic with notes of honeysuckle, sweet lemon and delicate rose. Crisp acidity is balanced with the vanilla signature of French oak on the palate. The lingering finish offers spicy toastiness that complements the fruit.Daou 2016 Chardonnay ($15): A riot of flavors includes pear, lemon, passion fruit pineapple and banana. Even the nose is aggressive: honeysuckle, nutmeg, almond. But Daou’s Chardonnay isn’t just a frat party in a glass. It has a sumptuously silky texture and welcome acidity on the finish, and leaves a full, plush impression. Quite a talker for the price (you can sometimes find it for $11 at Costco). A great introductory wine from Paso’s flamboyant Bordeaux kings, the Daou brothers.Fleur de Mer Provence Rosé Vintage 2017 ($18): This pale pink beauty balances ripe fruit, bracing acidity and dry mineral finish. Red cherry, raspberry, white peach, lavender, grapefruit and warm-weather herbs, with a touch of salinity. The very definition of an elegant Provencal rosé. Also available in magnum size for $40 – a showy way to kick off a summer party.Robert Mondavi 2016 Napa Valley Fume Blanc ($20): OK, so Robert Mondavi made up the name “Fume Blanc” to help goose the popularity of his dry-style Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is worthy of representing his legacy. Pithy, with grapefruit and lemon peel flavors, it’s deceptively crisp and light on the nose, offering a wealth of body and lushness on the palate, accented with nutmeg and peach. It includes 4 percent Sémillon, partly from the legendary To Kalon vineyard.Rodney Strong 2017 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley ($25): Normally I shy away from variations on rosé’s Provencal standards, but this rose of pinot noir pulled me in with its electrifying color. The enchantment continues with strawberry, white peach and jasmine on the nose and the palate. The finish is long and luxuriant. Sharply focused acidity but light of body, and it surprises you with a zesty lemon finish.Saint Clair Family Estate 2017 Origin Series Sauvignon Blanc ($28): This worthy New Zealand winery has produced a persuasive example of the sauvignon blanc style from the little land Down Under. Origin Series introduces itself with a mysteriously bready nose, then opens up to rich hits of pineapple and guava with a grassy undertone. There’s a hint of saltiness riding on the long, lively finish. And yes, there’s a bit of gooseberry, that distinctive New Zealand flavor.Smith Madrone 2015 Estate Grown Riesling ($30): An epic riesling from one of Napa’s best producers of this grape; Smith-Madrone has been growing riesling in the Spring Mountain District since 1971. Unlike the 2014 vintage, which was lush, deep and round, the 2015 is the very definition of racy. It is bright, clean and delicious with a solid core of minerality surrounded by grace notes of citrus fruit and honeysuckle.
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An Illogical Argument Against Wine From the Tap. Keg wine served through bar-top taps has never caught on in the U.S., and I think I know the reason: romance.Wine is surrounded by traditions, some of them indefensible. Is cork inherently better as a stopper than synthetic corks or twist-off tops? Of course not – but we still prefer it. We’re creatures of habit. That’s why we like that sleek bottle in front of us, reflecting the candlelight as talk turns intimate and the hour gets late.In Europe, the wine-tap system has been around for decades; I remember seeing them everywhere during trips there in the 1980s. On a visit years ago to a bar in southern France, the local Beaujolais was served to me directly from a big wooden keg sitting right on the bar.But for some reason, wine taps have never been widely accepted here, despite attempts to make them trendy in the 1970s and ’80s. I’ve seen them in only a handful of Orange County (California) bars over the last 18 months or so.But What About the Taste of Keg Wine?Many in the industry claim that wine stored in kegs is better, on average, than the same product in a bottle. Corks can carry impurities which undermine the taste of a wine. So can oxidation, which happens when a wine bottle is opened and the unfinished portion is exposed to air. When a keg is tapped, the void space inside instantly becomes pressurized by an inert gas, which prevents oxygen from coming in contact with the wine.There’s the nagging perception that wine from a keg is plonk. But respected wineries such as Au Bon Climat and Qupé are getting into the practice, so that argument doesn’t really hold.True, not all wine benefits from keg storage. Many require bottle aging. But for wine that’s meant to be consumed when it’s young, kegs are ideal.Still, where is the romance? I know, I know, it’s not a logical argument. But to me, part of the pleasure of wine drinking involves observing its traditions and rituals – even the ones that make no sense.
That's right. Don't let the haters nor the reputation fool you. Canned wine is here and it's - actually - pretty damn good.Over this summer, I drank a lot of wine. A fair bit of Aperol and Campari too, but mostly wine. For me, summer is a chance for spontaneity: impromptu trips to the beach or lake, long bike rides or hikes, and big group get-togethers.The one challenge with wine is that it always required a little bit of planning.Spur-of-the-moment wine pairings were challenging, whether that meant I had to quickly chill down bottles of Donnhoff and Saetti before a barbecue (if you've never paired Riesling or Lambrusco with your grilled meat, then you haven't lived). For picnics or day trips, it's easy enough to saber a bottle of Stolpman Vineyard's Pet Nat, but much harder to crack open a bottle of Dufaitre's Côte de Brouilly when you've forgotten your corkscrew.On the flipside, cans have always been supremely easy to pack and even easier to quaff. As drinkers, we've always accepted beer in a can and, with the world domination of La Croix, canned water is now as ubiquitous as its bottled brethren. Jordan Salcito created Ramona, the country's coolest wine cooler, by mixing the tangy Sicilian white grape Zibbibo (aka Muscat of Alexandria) with grapefruit juice. Refreshing but not overly sweet, these cans are unabashedly fun.I've given cans to red-blooded Texans and to East Coast millennials. Everyone loves it. Like Pizza Bagel Bites, you could drink Ramona in the morning (think Mimosa in a can!) or in the evening before dinner as an aperitif, or in the afternoon at the beach.Elsewhere, Master Sommelier and Master Marathoner, Bobby Stuckey, extended his Friuli-focused winery Scarpetta to include a canned mix of Glera (the main grape in Prosecco) and Trebbiano. If LaCroix were to make wine, that's what Frico Frizzante would taste like.The first time I tasted Scarpetta's Frico Frizzante, it was after a hot and humid 10K run. My friend packed some chilled cans and, within minutes, they were guzzled.Since then, I've added the Frico Frizzante to the wine list at my bar. It's a fantastic option for guests who want something crisp and easy to drink. Also an easy lateral from Prosecco or Sauvignon Blanc. Even guests looking for something sweet, like a Moscato, have been wooed by the effusive, citrusy flavor of Frico Fizz.For canned wine to exist beyond kitschy novelty, it has to taste good. My rule of of thumb has been to pour the wine into another vessel: Zalto, a SOLO cup, whatever. Does it still taste good? In this case, the answer is HYFR.If either Ramona or Scarpetta Frico Fizz were bottled instead of canned, they would still be equally fantastic. The eco-friendly, convenient packaging is just the icing on the cake.Now I don't need to pack a corkscrew on my way to the beach!Chris PoldoianChris Poldoian is a certified sommelier and a member of the Houston Sommelier Association. He runs Camerata, an exceptional wine bar in Houston that specializes in lesser known varietials and old world regions. Track Chris's adventures and the latest in Houston's wine scene on Instagram - and be sure to pop into Camerata when in town.
And just when I thought the rosé bubble was about to burst, along came...frosé.The French upstart was showing many of the signs that it was about to jump the shark. Albertson’s and other garden-variety supermarkets were featuring huge rosé displays near checkout counters.The price of Miraval, suavely marketed in happier times by its owners, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, was creeping ever skyward. Neighborhood restaurants were offering more than one rosé by the glass, often charging the same prices for this throwaway wine as they would for good-quality chardonnay.But then some wiseguy/girl mixologist tried freezing it, mixing it with a tasty liqueur, and viola! A new summertime concoction was born. Frosé first appeared last summer. This summer, it’s everywhere.At Daniel Boulud’s Bistro Moderne in Manhattan last month, we tried an elegant variation of the drink, and we noticed it at many Manhattan bars. Orange County, California mixologist Gabrielle Dion has come up with a version for the bar menu at Broadway, a popular Laguna restaurant that features the cuisine of Top Chef finalist Amar Santana. Dion combines two ounces of Blackbird Rosé with Cappelletti Aperitivo, strawberry-rhubarb jam, lemon and grapefruit oils. Many recipes I found online recommend puréed strawberries and a little sugar to sweeten everything.Another frequent point of advice is to use a stronger, darker rosé. “This is NOT a moment for that nearly clear, Whispering Angel kind of rosé. Look for Pinot Noir or Merlot rosés,” Bon Appetit advises. A couple of recipes even call for a little vodka to strengthen the concoction.We recently tried Bon Appetit’s frosé recipe and found it hassle-free and tasty:1 750 ml bottle hearty, bold rosé (such as a Pinot Noir or Merlot rosé)½ cup sugar8 ounces strawberries, hulled, quartered2½ ounces fresh lemon juicePour rosé into a 13" x 19" pan and freeze until almost solid (it won't completely solidify due to the alcohol), at least 6 hoursMeanwhile, bring sugar and ½ cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan; cook, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Add strawberries, remove from heat, and let sit 30 minutes to infuse syrup with strawberry flavor. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl (do not press on solids); cover and chill until cold, about 30 minutes.Scrape rosé into a blender. Add lemon juice, 3½ ounces strawberry syrup, and 1 cup crushed ice and purée until smooth. Transfer blender jar to freezer and freeze until frosé is thickened (aim for milkshake consistency), 25–35 minutes. Blend again until frosé is slushy. Divide among glasses.Bon Appetit says that frosé can be kept fresh for a week. It would never last that long in my icebox...
Our professional, well-spent time cruising the internet produced the discovery of Tacomode. If you haven't heard of it, Lyft is adding an app feature to take you to the nearest Taco Bell location - for free - on the way to your destination. Maybe you’re running late to a meeting and decide, "Meh, I could go for some TB (not the infectious disease) and pick the boss up something too". Or maybe you get hungry during a 10 minute car ride. Oh, what a time to be alive. As if Tony Hill read our minds, his tweet gets the wheels turning: “...Makes you wonder what other 'modes' they should explore…” Naturally, as grape lovers, this was an easy one for us to answer. Winemode. We want this. You want this. EVERYONE wants this. Wineries typically aren't right next door and often require a roadtrip. Even us spoiled Southern Californians aren't about to shell out coin for a 30+ mile Lyft ride whenever we crave vino straight from the source. What if these wineries were magically closer AND you didn’t need to spend that extra fair? What if you don't live close enough to any wineries at all? Imagine if they came to you, ride included. Here's our proposed solution: a Lyft-sponsored wine event at mystery locations.
Don’t be afraid to admit it: you’re a red wine snob. You’re cuckoo for cabernet, super-fond of Super Tuscans, mad about merlot. In the summer, it can get pretty lonely out there, can’t it? Picnics and parties are an endless round of buttery chardonnays, sweet rieslings and (God forbid) rosé, which you dismiss as little more than pink Kool Aid with a bad aftertaste. I’m here to help. There are a number red wines that drink perfectly well in warm weather. Many somms use a simple rule when recommending summer reds: stick with the thin-skinned grapes. The most common ones are pinot noir, grenache, sangiovese and tempranillo. Nebbiolo is also a thin-skinned grape, but it doesn’t behave like one. It’s the main ingredient in barolo and barbaresco. It’s powerful, tannic and hard to tame. But the other four can be fashioned into light-bodied, fruit-forward wines that often benefit from being chilled or at least served at what I can “northern European room temperature” – 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit. Pinot noir The most popular wine in the light-red world. For summer, stick with Burgundian-style pinot – light in color and body, often barnyard-ish and funky when you sniff it, dominated by cherry notes and very light on tannins at the end. The Burgundy region of France is obviously the first choice for pinot noirs, but Oregon and New Zealand also make excellent Burgundian-style pinots. In California, the northern regions produce the best light-bodied examples of pinot: Anderson Valley, Russian River, the Santa Lucia Highlands. ($19, BUY HERE!) Go for the 2015 Cloudline Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley - THE region for Oregon pinots. Granacha A Spanish grape that also does well in France’s Southern Rhône Valley, where it’s called grenache. It’s the backbone of Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines. But they’re often pretty meaty; far better in summer to go with lighter Côtes du Rhônes grenache. Or, if you want to save some green, go with Spanish granachas, which often have more backbone than their French counterparts. Run with a 2015 La Maldita Garnacha. A summery version of the grape with bright acidity, lighter fruits, and silky texture. ($11, BUY HERE!) Sangiovese From Italy’s Tuscany region. Makes an excellent, all-purpose barbecue wine. Some are blends; Montefalco Rosso, an inexpensive mélange of sangiovese and sagrantino, carries delicate flavors of strawberry, tart cherries and white flowers. Most Chianti is made with 100 percent sangiovese grapes. It’s medium bodied, with crisp acidity and light tannins. The 2012 Arnaldo Caprai Montefalco Rosso will do very well. A nice representation of the blend. ($22, BUY HERE!) Tempranillo Another light-bodied Spanish grape, medium ruby in color. It delivers tastes of cherry, plum, tomato and sometimes dried fig, with mild to medium tannins. New World tempranillos from Argentina, Mexico and the U.S. usually deliver more fruit than their Spanish counterparts – a taste profile highlighted by cherry and tomato sauce, followed by tannins and earthy notes. Crianza rioja tempranillo, which spends a minimum of one year in casks, has long been prized by fans of the grape because it finds a sweet spot of quality and price – it often tastes more expensive than it is. Let's pop open this 2012 Crianza by La Rioja Alta Finca San Martin. It's fresh yet mature, energetic yet refined. ($15, BUY HERE!) Beaujolais Made in France, generally from the Gamay grape, it’s a wonderful wine for summer barbecues. It’s not at all tannic and has a strong acid backbone, and it’s ready to drink as soon as it’s put in the bottle. But if you’re tired of the late-summer Beaujolais habit, consider a similar grape that’s unjustly overlooked: Austria’s Blaufränkisch. It can be spicy and juicy yet elegant and structured – and it’s seldom expensive. Before you ease into the adventure that is Blaufränkisch, let's roll with Georges Duboeuf's take on a classic Beaujolais. ($22, BUY HERE!)