By Rick Riozza

Gearing up for the Fourth of July celebration, for many years, was settling on the right brewski (American vs. European?) and then making sure we had plenty of it chilled up! However, with wine’s increased popularity, the beverage competition continues to play out with vino lovers across the nation: What’s the best American wine that beats the heat and pairs well with picnic fare?

Grilling!!—I’m already hungry just thinking about fresh grilled hamburgers, grilled meats, grilled corn, grilled fruits. And those refreshing salads where even the lettuce and veggies are grilled! Yep!—we can go on and on with an inventive and delightful patio/picnic menu.

And there are now hundreds of wonderful and tasty wines to accompany this up-coming 4th of July weekend. We all have some traditional wine favorites that we look forward to again. What I’m recommending below, are some “new” labels I’ve enjoyed recently.

As we’ve written continuously, one style of wine that can effectively complement almost every dish, grilled or not, is the tasty dry rosé—either sparkling or still.

This past week I had the pleasure of joining wine wise-guy, Ricco Gallardo, of Authentic Wines Selections. He’s the Coachella & Inland Empire representative for Authentic, who carry a fantastic portfolio of wine. We met and tasted at the chic, elegant, but relaxed Il Corso Restaurant on El Paseo in Palm Desert, 760.341.6700

Served by the glass at Il Corso, we enjoyed the 2012 Onesta Rosé of Cinsault, produced from old vines in Lodi. This is the refreshing and sprightly dry rosé that keeps the picnic going. Perfect company for all you can grill. Ask your wine merchant to look into carrying this bottle.

Not red nor white, but salmon pink in color. On the nose you’ll whiff cherries, strawberries, candied ginger, minerals, spice, and a slight hint of toast. This has medium body, nice richness, and crisp acidity. On the palate the fresh, crisp fruit shares the spotlight with minerals, ginger, and a nice herbal note. The finish is long and lingering.

Okay—with many of the foodies out and about, the participation of grilling has taken on its own starring role. To beat the heat, everyone has their “grilling beverage” in one hand and their spatula in the other.

Often enough, we grilling vino-heads surely enjoy an ice-cold beer! If I do a white grilling wine, traditionally it’s been the clean and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc. This year, I’m going a bit deeper with a bit more complex flavors—but with the same fresh and thirst-quenching quaff: the 2013 Tom Gore Chardonnay. Around $15 at Total Wine & More, Palm Desert 760.346.2029

Tom Gore is a second generation grape farmer from Sonoma County, and is now having wine bottled under his own name. The label is fairly new to the market place.

The wine opens with soft aromas—fresh off an apple orchard. Then a very clean palate of apple, peach and vanilla, with a light buttery feel in the middle. It’s one of the liveliest Chardonnays with a classic chard profile. Served all chilled up, it doesn’t lose its focus as it warms in the glass—not that I’m letting that happen!

Besides staying with the Gore Chardonnay for the meal, another bright and refreshing white wine to recommend is the 2014 Onesta Grenache Blanc, around $20, also from Lodi. We all have heard of its full flavored rouge cousin, Grenache (Noir) in France, or, the Garnacha in Spain, so now’s the time to taste the light and sleek savors of the blanc.

White flowers, Meyer lemon, and a hint of white peach jump out of the glass. A comforting light wine with complex layers of sea mist and minerality. It’s a sexy thirst-quencher for picnic fare on a hot summer day. Again, have your wine shop contact Ricco at Authentic Wines 760.799.2742 or,

When it comes to the “quintessential” American red wine, the argument for Zinfandel or Petite Sirah is very persuasive. Both of course have roots in Europe, as with most varietals, but these two reds are pretty much exclusively Californian.

However, if you’re chiming in on that very point, you already have your Zin or Petite in mind and ready to uncork. So, as we’ve done above, let’s look to some different varietals on the red horizon.

Over the weekend we had the opportunity to attend Costa Nichol’s Carneros Wine Tasting at his Desert Wine & Spirts/Go-Deli Market Saturday wine tasting event in Palm Springs, 760-327-770. Go on for weekly alerts on the wine tastings.

Tasting through some delicious Carneros Chardonnay & Pinot Noir, Costa threw in the mix a 100% Pinot Meunier red wine, with the 2012 Domaine Chandon Pinot Meunier, $20. Of course you’ve heard of this varietal—it’s the 3rd blending grape in Champagne, which is also blended in Domaine Chandon’s sparkling wines.

Aged for 10 months in 20% new French oak before bottling, look for pleasing plum, cherry and pomegranate aromas with flavors that are balanced with a subtle earthiness and well-integrated oak. This very tasty and lively red can be chilled for the picnic and can match the grilled fare.

Running with the colors of Old Glory—red, white & blue, one can finish up by enjoying your grandmother’s recipe for blueberry wine. Or, there is a Santa Barbara County wine that simply shouts seamless and spicy blueberry and currant flavors. The 2012 Point Concepción Merlot, Czar & Rey, $20, is full bodied, but extremely soft and supple. Can be chilled and will match well with burgers and ribs.

Happy Birthday America! Cheers!