BY RICK RIOZZA
Arriving back home from Verona Italy last week, it appeared that I also brought back the wonderful weather I was enjoying abroad. Here in the desert, mild and temperate, it was about as good as it gets!
But while everyone is talking about the weather, the hundred degree temps are quickly ushering in. Not too long ago in this town, the beverage of choice for both both locals and visitors would be the chilled Martini, the gin and tonic, or a simple suds-in-the-sun ice-cold stein of beer.
I’m still on board with all those refreshers, but now that our valley is awash with vino awareness, please allow us to mention some wines that can chill with the best of them. And, if you choose well, you can keep sipping all through the day.
Conventional advice tells us, in the hot weather, there are some rules to keep in mind: For the whites, nothing too rich or oaky; and for reds, nothing too tannic; and as for the rosés—well, you know they’re always good to go. But definitely break out that ice bucket for them all: and indeed, a chilled-up red wine will suddenly go from flabby to focused and refreshing.
A Sauvignon Blanc is always on the lips of refreshing wine lovers: fresh, bracing, zesty, the white wine for our foodie crowd that yearns for healthy salads, seafood, cheese, crudités, chicken or any dish that we desire lively, light, and satisfying. That’s certainly the taste profile for the original white Loire and Bordeaux grape, Sauvignon Blanc. Piercingly aromatic, extremely refreshing, and unlike most world class varietals, it is best drunk relatively young.
I’m always recommending the very popular Nobilo (NOB-il-loe) Sauv Blanc, ($9), from New Zealand. You can find it everywhere, it’s inexpensive and it’s delicious with all the aromas and “green flavor’ tastes of limes, grass, gooseberry, asparagus, and crisp green bell peppers—add sometimes some tropical fruit notes, such as guavas, passion fruit and pineapple. The Nobilo Icon, ($20), is the brand’s high-end wine which shows-off in all al fresco settings—a classy white dinner wine!
In California, the Sauv Blanc has taken to our terrior like love and marriage. So many beautiful round fruit flavors that either complement, soften and/or tame the firm acidity of the grape. I’ve always enjoyed Honig Sauvignon Blanc, ($15), from Napa County. It’s the epitome of Cal Sauv Blanc: a perfect balance of citrus, floral, and Napa terroir.
For you pinot grigio fans, a wonderfully complex example of a California pinot grige is The 2013 Carducci Pinot Grigio, one of the best California grige I’ve tasted this year. It’s got your classic complex yet smooth flavors of citrus, pear, melon, mango, and herbs. It comes from the Cold Creek vineyard in the Sonoma Carneros region. The wine is 100% Pinot Grigio and is fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks. It was bottled in January 2014. Refreshing, cleansing, invigorating, and tasty—it’s my spring fling this season at around $19 a bottle.
A little before I left to Italy, I had the nice opportunity to chat with Heidi Bridenhagen, who is only the third winemaker in the history of MacRostie Winery. She was a fun interview and we’ll cover her story and the winery’s portfolio in a few columns or so.
But I’ve always been a fan of the MacRostie line-up of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Many times I have recommended their 2015 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay,($23) to pair with the classic grilled sea bass dish, with olive oil, lemon wedge, and dill—it’s the match made in heaven! So why not recommend it again!
The wine begins with a beautifully fragrant nose of pineapple, mango and guava. On the palate, the tropical fruit elements mingle with lively citrus layers as well as hints of spice from aging in French oak. The finish is clean, refreshing and quickly invites another taste!
For you wine nerds who wish to know how Heidi preserved the bright and delicate character of the fruit, all of the grapes went direct to press as whole clusters and were then gently pressed. After settling, 85% of the juice was racked into French oak barrels for fermentation, 17% of which were new and to provide a very fresh and focused element to the final blend, 15% of the juice stayed in stainless steel tanks for a cool fermentation.
And, while we’re at it, a great rosé recommendation is the 2017 MacRostie Russian River Valley Rosé, ($23) Made from 100% Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, this gorgeous crisp and refreshing dry rosé is fun, lively and also reeks of class for your pool and dinner parties.
I agree with Heidi’s tasting notes: A completely dry rosé, the only perception of sweetness is from this wine’s alluring strawberry and peach elements. In the glass, it has an inviting pale pink color that hints at its delicate aromas and flavors. The strawberry and peach notes are echoed on the palate, alongside hints of tangerine and watermelon, all of which are underscored by a beam of acidity that carries the wine to a long, soft finish.
And now, this brings us to a desired chillable red wine. Right off the top of my head, two wonderful reds to speak of would be the breathtaking Beaujolais [BOE-zhoh-Lay] and the exciting Chinon [shee-NOHN].
These wines meet the ticket on non-tannic wines. Beaujolais owns the floral aromas and the fruity notes of strawberries, raspberries, and cherries. Juicy, soft, and velvety it pairs with charcuterie, cheese, and all picnic and light dinner meals. Chinon is the French Loire grape that we know as Cabernet Franc. The French version is a light to medium bodied dry wine, with similar Beaujolais flavors but with more heft for those who crave a heartier cool red wine. Cheers!