By Rick Riozza
So the sun is shining and it appears that the days are getting safer & safer. And all we wish to do in one way or another is to get outside! So in my mind that means keeping things simple and simply plan for a nice outdoor picnic: al fresco eating & drinking could well be the theme of this year’s summer socializing.
Over the last few months, we’ve perhaps done our share of reading food magazines and food fantasizing, so I’m sure we can pack some lovely food and add to it by packing some lovely wine—wine for the outdoors.
Don’t know if you’ve been out of the loop for a while or not, but just in case some cobwebs are still lingering about the head, why don’t we quickly discuss the essentials to adequately pack for wine picnic. One never thinks they’ve forgotten the obvious until it’s too late and find they forgot something.
So let’s start off with the corkscrew. I always think I have one lying around the car but sometimes I’m wrong, and to my consternation I find nothing!! Geez!—you’d think me of all people would carry a bunch of corkscrews; but there I am sometimes searching all through my SUV for five minutes with no luck—and sweating to boot!
By the way—there are a few classic ways to open a bottle of wine without a screw. By “classic” I mean ways that are inventive, or wacky, or just plain stupid. So I’ll be the Guinea Pig and try out few of these measures for my next article. So stay tuned.
Anyway—just remember to in fact bring a corkscrew to open your standard bottle of wine. And remember yourself—don’t rely on someone else to forget bringing it.
Of course, these days, we have screwcap wines, sparkling wines that open themselves with their own pressure, and boxed or canned wines that make life easy. But, let’s face it, there’s something romantic about uncorking a bottle of wine on the grass under a tree and spilling a little wine on the blanket.
Next, if you’re going for a white, rosé, sparkling or even a light red wine, you’re going to need a way of keeping the wine cool. Bringing icepacks or an ice-cooler is a good idea. Ice in a bag of course works but so often Murphy’s Law is in play and the ice will either sprawl out in some unanticipated way, or the bag will just rip and you’ll have ice all over. In our desert heat, you should actually welcome the faux-pas—unless you’re an uptight picnicker and find the ice mess distressing.
If you’re already out and about without prior chilling—just remember to by some ice, have an ice-bucket on hand, extra water, and throw a little salt into the mix to chill the wine as quick as you can—most wine and sparklers will chill enough within 20 minutes in the ice bath.
Wine glasses are like corkscrews in that you think you have them but—oops! You forgot. Cheap plastic cups most often seem to make the picnic cut—but they can’t be too big or flimsy, because you know what’s going to happen. How about old school real glass—the simple sturdy tumbler that keeps the wine cool and fresh. It’s a better experience and it’s the “green” thing to do.
That’s it—not rocket science, just a quick pick-list. You can buy one of those picnic wooden wine holders or just bring a plain old cutting board that will keep you glass fairly supported. How many times have we knocked into our wine glass, spilling onto the picnic cloth or on the blades of grass in the worst of places? Enough times to laugh about it!
Now the fun question becomes—what about the wines to bring? To fit the bright picnic occasion, one can’t go wrong with a sparkling wine:
Trentodoc Endrizzi Piancastello Riserva Millesimato ($25) Perhaps you loyal readers will remember that I had the privilege last summer to meet and greet on Zoom with one of Italy’s best sommeliers, Roberto Anesi, who, from location on the peaks of the pristine Dolomites, walked us through Italy’s most artisanal sparkling wine areas: the Trentodoc.
This Endrizzi Piancastello sparkler is certainly an elegant alternative to the ubiquitous Prosecco. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes contribute to the production of this Brut Riserva, using the traditional method (Champenois). Leaving the wine to mature for 36 months on natural yeasts, the range of aromas is fantastic!
On the nose, perfume of ripe fruit, yellow peach and notes of honey and bread crust alight. In the mouth, beautiful bubbles and a strong smack of savory citrus notes. It reminded me of a premiere Chablis meeting up with a world class Franciacorta. Absolutely delicious—I could drink this all summer long.
If you’re going to bring a white still wine that’ll go with everything on the picnic table, step up to the 2019 Stag Leaps’ Chardonnay, Napa Valley ($25). This is the Chardonnay that brings richness & minerality, acidity & complexity together is a glass. The perfect picnic quaff!
Here you’ll find lively aromas of delicate Meyer lemon, orange blossom, fresh white peach and delicate honeysuckle, supported by more subtle notes of Tarte Tatin and brioche toast. Fresh, vibrant and mouthwatering, the palate is crisp with layers of ripe Golden Delicious apple, guava and warm Asian pear, backed up by a luscious texture that is rich and balanced. Notes of vanilla, allspice and crème brûlée lead to a lengthy finish that is full and bright. Happy Picnicking! Cheers!