Summer Wines That Surprise — Your Guide to the Best Drinking During the Hottest Season
Worthy Picks From Around the WorldBY James Brock // 07.29.19
I taste wines on a daily basis, and come across a good number of bottles that make me happy, wines I’m eager to recommend to friends and add to my inventory. They come from locales as diverse as Napa Valley and Umbria, the Loire Valley and Texas, Dundee Hills and the Bekaa Valley, and many other places near and far. The diversity of the wine world is something we should not take for granted.
To help you celebrate that diversity and deliciousness, I’ve assembled a slate of bottles that will appeal to a wide variety of drinkers, wines that possess outstanding drinkability and quality, selections that are ideal for garden parties, afternoon al fresco soirées, casual get-togethers and formal dinner parties.
These are great summer wines. Have fun exploring and tasting.
First up, a trio of wines from Sicily, from Tenuta Regaleali, a Tasca property whose storied past can be best understood by drinking some of the wines produced there (on nearly 1,000 acres). We’ll go with the 2018 Regaleali Bianco, the 2018 Regaleali Le Rose, and the 2016 Regaleali Nero d’ Avola (all $15). I recently opened these three bottles on the same evening, for a dinner, and they proved popular with my guests. We began with the Rosé, served with poached shrimp, proceeded to the Bianco, which I paired with a cold asparagus soup, and finished with the Nero d’ Avola — which we drank while eating lamb loin chops.
Here are the details about the Regaleali wines — which at $15 retail represent great bargains: the Rosé is 100 percent Nerello Mascalese, and the winery has been making it since 1961. (Nerello Mascalese is a grape you should know; it’s name speaks of its dark color and the village near which it is said to have originated — Mascali. It can be delicious.) The bianco, the first wine produced at Regaleali, is a blend of Inzolia (47 percent), Grecanico (22 percent), Catarratto (25 percent), and Chardonnay (6 percent). You like a balanced wine, with acid to sing about? Drink this one. Finally, the Nero d’Avola (100 percent). It’s aged in Slavonian oak, and it is drinking beautifully now.
California is on this list as well, and we’ve got an interesting mix. Let’s begin with Gamble Family Vineyards’ 2015 Paramount, a Bordeaux blend that you can (and should) drink now or cellar until 2035. It retails for $90, and your next ribeye is what you need to pair it with. Winemaker Jim Close works well with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot here, fermenting each separately in French oak, then aging each for 20 months. He then blends and bottles. A serious wine full of dark cherry, vanilla, clove, and a touch of leather.
We’ll stay with Gamble, and go with the winery’s 2018 Sauvignon Blanc ($28). Tom Gamble has been producing this wine for 15 years or so, and was first drawn to the grape during time spent in France. This is a single-vineyard wine, and four clones are involved: Sauvignon Musque and 530 (Loire), and Preston and 316 (Bordeaux). I like to serve this wine, which offers grapefruit and sensual lemongrass to the drinker, with poached chicken.
The Hilt Estate – Bentrock Vineyard from The Hilt Estate on Vimeo.
Another wine hailing from California that I’m enjoying now is a Pinot Noir from the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. It’s made by The Hilt, and the vintage is 2016. The winemaker here, Matt Dees, got his schooling at the University of Vermont (plant and soil science), and The Hilt’s 3,600-acre estate in Santa Barbara County is an ideal place for him to practice his craft. The land boasts a variety of soil types, including diatomaceous and shale, and the terroir comes through in what The Hilt is producing. The 2016 Estate Pinot Noir comes from blocks of vines growing on slopes that end in the center of the property, and Dees and his team have produced a remarkable wine here. It will cost you around $45.
I spent some time in Santa Barbara wine country several years ago, and was (and am) impressed with what’s coming from the region, including these two wines from Beckmen Vineyards, the 2018 Purisima Mountain Vineyard Grenache Rosé ($25) and the 2017 Cuvee Le Bec. The latter selection — 47 percent Syrah, 34 percent Grenache, 11 percent Mourvedre, and 8 percent Counoise — had its first vintage in 1997, and has since then garnered high praise for its complexity. Six different Syrah clones, three Grenache clones, native yeast, 15 percent new French oak, 85 percent neutral French oak, puncheon… all resulting in a blend that pairs supremely with lamb, wild boar, and hamburgers.
Beckmen’s Grenache Rosé was harvested in early October, and if your palate appreciates the spiciness the grape variety is known for, this bottle has your name all over it. Red berry, impressive acidity, and a lovely strawberry note. This wine paired well with spicy olive oil-poached salmon. Beckmen is certified biodynamic by Demeter.
Let’s end my summer wine guide with bottles from Italy and California. Italy gives us the 2018 Cleto Chiarli’s Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC ($16), a wine from the Emilia Romagna region that I dare anyone to quibble with. Open this bottle and serve it alongside a charcuterie tray, and your guests will love you forever. The freshness and minerality will wow them, and the effervescence will delight. Truly a refreshing pour.
Next, to the Sonoma Coast, and a Pinot Noir from Fort Ross Vineyard & Winery, the 2016 Seas Slopes ($35), a wine made by Jeff Pisoni. It’s 100 percent Pinot Noir, and the grapes here were handpicked (and sorted by hand). Wood program: 15 percent new and 85 percent neutral French oak. You’ll taste cherry, plum, and a pleasant spiciness, and duck breast would be a fine pairing.
Ask your favorite merchant for these wines, and drink well with those you love.
Want more wine? Read on!
Drink This California Cabernet Franc
This Geologist Knows His Italian
From Boston to Austin, With Wine in Mind
A Chardonnay For Your Mother (and You)
Don’t Dismiss the Peat
Distinctive Whisky Enters a New Era
A Whisky Legend Visits Houston
A Rare Cask, Indeed
Austin Whisky, Strange Name
Here’s Your Texas Rum Goddess
A ZaZa Wine Guy Loves Great Service
A Merlot That Your Snob Friend Will Love
French Couple Make a Sauvignon Blanc in California
A Perfect Afternoon Chardonnay
Terry Theise Talks Reisling
A New Wine Wonderland
Paris Wine Goddess Tells All
Rice Village Wine Bar Has a Cleveland Touch
A Texas White Blend for Your Table
A Pinot Noir Full of Flavor
This Pinot Gris From Oregon Pairs Well With Cheese
A Value Rioja
Underbelly Veteran Goes for Grenache
A Man of Letters and Wine
Ms. Champagne Wants a Nebuchadnezzar
The Wine Artist Goes for Chardonnay
This American Loves Spain and Its Wines
Houston’s Wine Whisperer Has a Soft Touch
Blackberry Farm’s Somm Pours in Splendor
Mr. Pinot Noir: Donald Patz of Patz & Hall
A Cork Dork Wants to Spend More Time in Tuscany
Sommelier Turned Restaurateur Daringly Goes Greek
Texas Master Sommelier Debunks Wine Geeks
A Bottle From Gigondas Changed This Houston Man’s Life
Oil Man Falls in Love, and the Rest is Good-Taste History
Ryan Cooper of Camerata is a Riesling Man
Mixing It Up With Jeremy Parzen, an Ambassador of Italy
Sommelier at One of Houston’s Top Wine Bars Loves Underdogs