We’re deep into my favorite season – summer! – and I’m here to share some recos to keep you sipping instead of sweating -or at least keep you sipping good wine while you sweat, depending on where you are in the world. (Sorry/not sorry to say Chicago’s having a lovely summer with moderate temps and low humidity. We’ll pay for it later, of course, but we live for the moment here.)
If you know me, you know I can’t say no to Chardonnay samples. I mean – it’s a glass full of sunshine! Plus, there is an enormous spectrum of styles, from flinty, minerally Chablis to big, oaky butter bombs from California, and everything in between.
Speaking of summer heat and climate change, take a look at these two sustainable Cali Chards.
Bogle Vineyards Chardonnay 2020 ($11) This affordalicious burst of green and crisp red apples draws you in with juicy, tart, tropical promise. Unapologetically oaked, it’s a creamy, dreamy buffet of the aforementioned apples, vanilla, and a hint of coconut. It rolls over your tongue like silk and I like it! Bonus: Since the 2017 vintage, Bogle requires all their growers (91 of them) to implement the California Rules for Sustainability standards. They also received the 2018 Green Medal Leader Award, recognizing the vineyard that best demonstrates environmentally sound, socially equitable and economically viable sustainable practices. Nice job, Bogle.
St. Francis Chardonnay 2020 ($14.99) Ooh,this is like a glass of apple butter with poached pears and crème Anglais with a little lemon curd in the background. It’s a wine with amazing balance between the fruit, the oak and the acidity. It reminded me of a tiny blond ballerina on a tight rope mincing over a bucket of buttered popcorn. Bonus: St. Francis is a Certified Sustainable winery that has worked hard to preserve Sonoma County’s natural resources.
Both wineries are collaborating with the Portuguese Cork Association and use only natural cork closures on their wines. Plus, both are pesticide- and herbicide-free in their vineyards, and keep synthetic ingredients out of their wines. If faced with a Cali Chard choice, these two are no-brainers!
Now for two reds that I ADORE for summer sipping.
Cline Family Cellars Ancient Vine Zinfandel ($26) This bottle is a limited edition label marking the winery’s 40th anniversary. Based in Carneros, this Zinfandel comes from the family’s dry-farmed (that means no irrigation, saving water; very nice) 100-year-old vineyards in Contra Costa County. While the winery was founded in 1982, Fred Cline is known for restoring ancient 100-year-old vines to produce Mourvèdre, Carignane and Zinfandel grapes.
This wine is a roasty-toasty compote of blueberries, blackberries, plum and yes, sous bois – a French term for an earthy, mushroomy quality. And oh yeah, there’s also some raspberry jam at this party, and it brought its friend strawberry fruit leather and there’s a scoche of black tea. It’s rich, unctuous, dark and delicious. Nice job, Fred and Nancy Cline and family!
Quinta da Fonte Souto Red 2018, Portalegre, Portugal ($26) I know, I know – me with the Portuguese wines again, but you can’t deny their appeal – the affordalicious quotient (price + quality) is always sky-high! This comes from the Symington family and it’s their first property outside of the Douro region. Portalegre lies within part of Alentejo – the ginormous wine region just 90 minutes or so east of Lisbon – but the higher altitude in Portalegre makes this wine (because most of Alentejo is very hot and dry) different.
Alicante Bouschet is in the starring role in this wine, backed up by Syrah and Alfrocheiro and some old-vine field blend grapes. You’re gonna get roasted berry compote notes and then an appealing explosion of pine forest – think rosemary and a bit of mint or eucalyptus (subtle, not ovewhelming). Every sip is a mouthful of powerful complexity. It’s dark-and-brooding, but also unleashes a bushel of fresh ripe berries. Super fun with steak or any grilled meats and sausages.
And now for the finale: two fun canned wines!
Le Petit Verre $13 for a pack of four 250ml cans (“the little glass,” en Français) is a new line of canned wines from Argentina’s Domaine Bousquet (makers of some excellent wines in bottles). And before you start laughing at canned wine, know this: canned wines have come a long way, and I am a fan. These are better than average, need no corkscrew, are lightweight and aluminum is far more recyclable than glass.
There is a sparkling rosé and a Malbec and each 250ml can equals 8.4 ounces (because the U.S. can’t handle the metric system). The wines are organic – BONUS! – and the cans are lightweight – perfect to pop into a backpack, picnic basket or purse! The vintage isn’t on the cans, but these are 2021. Are the grapes listed on the rosé? No. Do we care? We do not. Because these wines are easy, breezy summer sips in a can and that’s all you need to know! The quality is high, the price per can is low ($3.50), so go crazy.
As for the availability, I always say: ask your local wine shop. If they don’t stock the wines, they may be able to get them in from a local distributor. Wine.com is also a good source (full of good promotions for dollars off, and no I am not an ambassador for them.) For more info, check out these sites. Cheers, everyone