Chill Out

Originally published in Lake & Sumter Style, August 2011

Ancient Romans believed the Dog Days of summer caused seas to boil and wines to spoil. When the temperature outside is bringing you to a boiling point, try a lighter, chilled wine. These refreshing wines are perfect for summer salads or for sunny afternoons by the pool.

Sauvignon Blanc
An always popular white wine, Sauvignon Blanc’s summer fruit flavors make it the perfect wine for a picnic or just to enjoy sipping by the pool. And good Sauvignon Blancs can be found at very reasonable prices. For instance, Barefoot Cellars offers an award-winning Sauvignon Blanc that sells for around $7 to $8 a bottle. This wine has become what we call our “pool wine,” and we usually have a chilled bottle ready for unexpected guests or when it’s time to watch a summer sunset.

Don’t save the bubbly for special occasions. Sparkling wines — and especially Italian Prosecco — are great partners with just about any seafood dish and are good summer choices. Wine Spectator named La Marca Prosecco di Conegliano as one of the Top 100 wines in 2007, and it sells for about $13 a bottle — when you can find it. Zardetto Brut ($12) is another good choice. Serve fruity Prosecco wines very cold with Crab Louis for a party in your mouth. Or mix with peach puree to make a delicious “Bellini” the famous cocktail invented at Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy. Bellisimo!

Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris
Pinot Grigio is the Italian version of Pinot Gris, which is the term that most American winemakers use. Noted wine sommelier Andrea Immer describes Italian Pinot Grigio as the “quintessential luncheon wine” because it’s light, crisp and refreshing. The American versions have more fruit flavor and taste good with or without food. Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio (averages $20 a bottle) is Northern Italy’s most prestigious white wine and sets the bar for all other Pinot Grigios. It is fruity, complex and well balanced. Oregon’s Erath Pinot Gris ($12.99) is a little richer than most grocery store versions of Pinot Gris, and it is easy to drink on its own. The Pinot Gris has a slight hint of peaches and citrus. Serve either with milder foods or cheeses.

Chardonnay is usually the name that rolls off my lips when I can’t think of another white wine to order. After all, it’s a popular all-around food wine and every restaurant offers a house variety. The secret with Chardonnay in the summer, though, is to find one with minimal or subtle oak. “Seven Heavenly Chards” from Lodi, Calif., is a tasty, dry wine that uses mild French oak to round out the hints of pear and vanilla flavors. If you still prefer a little more oak, try “Toasted Head,” another California Chardonnay that sells for between $7 and $12, depending on where you shop. I especially like the buttery undertones of this wine. If you like lobster salad, this is the perfect complement.

Don’t let the name intimidate you. In German, Gewürz translates to spicy while traminer is the word for grapes. This medium- to full-bodied wine may sound German, but it really originates in France’s Alsace region; however, high-quality Gewürztraminers are also produced in the United States. Try Chateau St. Michelle’s at around $9 a bottle. Made with fruit from Washington’s Yakima Valley, this clove and spicy wine pairs extremely well with Thai or Chinese foods.

Rosé may be pink, but it’s not sweet. Good rosés are dry or semi-dry and combine the best of white wines (light, crisp) with the best of reds (fruit flavors, richness). This versatile wine pairs well with summer fare, but is especially good with Salad Niçoise. I can’t think of many other wines that I’d try with this popular tuna-based salad. Oregon’s Willamette Valley produces excellent dry rosés, including the light Van Duzer Rosé for about $15 a bottle.

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