By Rick Riozza

No one in this desert is thinking that the long hot summertime is going too fast—except for me! Getting in all the wine column titles and wine stories that fall in this time of the year can happily drive one to drink.

We’ve done summer-themed refreshing wines throughout this Olympic-tinged season, and it seems the more we uncover, the more refreshing and stimulating wines we find. But can we get to them all before the summer is out of reach and the door opens to autumn? Not to fret: indeed this is hardly problematic.

Some very tasty, exciting, and interesting wines have come across my desk lately, (yes—the rumors are true, my desk is actually the top of a wine-cooler). And—we’ll get to them right away.

But before we get back into the season’s wine and shine scene of our ever-encompassing Coachella Valley culinary ventures, I’d like to wish the boys of summer a cheery salute as we start our focus on the wine wise gals of the West Coast. Peppered throughout my up-coming fall season columns, I’ll be covering a few women of wine to get their perspective of what women really want.

Last year, it was les enfants terribles, the wine wise guys, that kept our interest; this time, let’s have a go with the gentler sex—to hear them out in our wide world of wine. Actually, I was just at Mindy Reed’s ZIN Bistro in Palm Springs. We often cover her outstanding wine-paring dinners and her continual Wine Spectator Awards. Mindy traveled in Europe this summer and she’s back to discuss with us her energetic culinary program for the fall.

Please stay tuned; other ladies to be hearing from will include winemaker Jenny Wagner, from the Wagner Family of Wines and Megan Luis, sommelier and Event Operations Captain for Marriott Hotels.

And now for your tasting consideration, let’s talk about a couple of wines that will make some great September quaffs:

Recently we spoke of the joys of chilling up our red wine. And we mentioned how light to medium-bodied pinot noirs are perfect for the quick chill. The latest release of the Astoria “Caranto” Pinot Noir, around $12, fits the bill. First and foremost, Astoria is known for their excellent Prosecco—they are one of Italy’s largest producers. Astoria Vini is a family owned company with the 4th generation family members Paolo and Giorgio Polegato overseeing all winemaking for the winery.

Of course anyone familiar with the Italian wine producer, Astoria Vini, knows their penchant for utilizing sleek new styles of wine bottles. The winery brings both taste and style to the table with their beautifully fashioned bottles inspired by the craftsmanship of Venice’s world-famous Murano Glass Academy. On several occasions at the wine shop, when ladies ask me to recommend an Italian Prosecco for a dinner gift, I’ll point out the Astoria: they agree the bottle shape is elegant, alluring, and a sexy choice.

Getting back to the Astoria Caranto, when was the last time you had an Italian pinot noir? As one would expect, the Italian pinot is an absolutely food-friendly wine bursting with the flavors of ripe red raspberry and strawberry. And served lightly chilled, the flavors seem to get even brighter. On the savory side there’s a hint of rosemary and white pepper. Outdoor grilling meals were made for this wine that pairs with just about everything—a nice change from the usual Zinfandel or Merlot match with your succulent chard ribs.

And while we are on the topic of decorative and stylish wine containers, our next recommendation is also housed in an artistic carafe. From Barcelona Spain, we have the Vilarnau Cava Brut Reserva packaged in a limited edition Gaudi wine sleeve. The bottle is beautiful.

By now, most of you wine enthusiasts know the great value of the Spanish sparkling bubbly known as cava. It’s one of the world’s few sparkling wines required to employ the same traditional techniques used for Champagne, rather than bulk-production methods. After cava producers make a still wine, they bottle it with a sweet mixture and yeast, as in Champagne; and, the wine famously undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle, which produces the bubbles.

A multitude of grapes are permitted in cava, including Champagne’s chardonnay and pinot noir, but the “best for the area” are made of the three traditional grapes: xarello [char-ELL-oh], bringing rich floral aromas and pear/melon-like notes , macabeo (known as viura in Rioja) with its welcomed green almond bitterness, and parellada providing zesty citrus flavors and ripping acidity.

Vilarnau Brut Reserva Edición Gaudí is the flagship wine of Cavas Vilarnau, a small, artisan winery. Consumption of Vilarnau was, until very recently, restricted to a privileged few who were in the know. Today, Vilarnau’s fame is on the move and is on a mission to create awareness of its distinguished reputation, its rigorous respect for the environment, and, excellent cavas.

The company’s comments include, “Our aim at Vilarnau is make the best cava with as little impact on our planet environment as possible: Monitoring energy consumption, water management, waste reduction, and sustainable viticulture holding Organic Certification. We make our living from the land, so looking after and nurturing it as best we can is in our DNA.”

I often enjoy the most reasonably priced cava for all occasions. This Vilarnau brut reserve is a great treat under $15—after all, it is a reserve wine! It offers aromas of complex yeast and biscuit, with flavors of orange, pear, and green apples, ending with a smooth finish and a light acidity.

Here’s to the arts! Cheers!

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