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Summer Wines That Will Make Any Hot Party (Or Cool Night) Better — 5 Perfect Picks For the Season

Tasting Notes, Grape Insights and Observations

BY // 07.03.24

Summer is here full force with its heat and humidity, the severity of which is dependent upon where you happen to be, vacation agendas, and, if you are lucky, myriad invitations to garden parties, dinners and poolside gatherings. Along with food – I’m thinking of a salad of farro, green bell peppers, roasted red peppers, cucumbers, red onion, feta, sun-dried tomatoes and an Italian-style vinaigrette, as well as grilled lamb chops and so many more great summertime dishes — wine will star at these festivities, and I’m busy opening bottles for you to consider. These are worthy summer wines. (I have scored these wines on a scale of one to 10.)

First up is a rosé, a beautiful wine that I have had in the cellar for a few years (I’m working on a rosé roundup and this bottle is among the selections). The 2019 Merkin Vineyards Jane Pink (the 2022 vintage sells for $26) is 100 percent monastrell – known as mourvedre in France. It is dry, crisp, a bit racy and delicious. Wild strawberry on the palate, dusky pink in the glass, and 12.2 percent alcohol.

It’s from Arizona, so if you’ve never had a wine from that state try this one. Hibiscus on the nose leads one into the glass. Serve as an apéritif, or enjoy with a young goat cheese. Score: 7.

A rosé perfect for your summer sipping is one of our summer wine selections.
A rosé perfect for your summer sipping is one of our summer wine selections.

I recently received six bottles of wines from Rhys Vineyards, and I’m looking forward to tasting them all. My impressions will be part of a longer piece on this producer of excellent pinot noir, chardonnay and syrah (not to mention chenin blanc and riesling), but for now let’s talk about the 2021 Bearwallow Vineyard Pinot Noir Anderson Valley ($105). The vineyard, named for the Bearwallow-Wolfey series bedrock that exists on the site, is situated between 300 and 6o0 feet above sea level and is organic, dry-farmed and biodynamic.

Do yourself a favor and sign up for the Rhys mailing list, or become an Estate Member, which will give you the opportunity to begin collecting these wines. The 2021 growing season was dry, and the concentrated fruit shines in this wine. Hedonistic strawberry and cherry on the nose is followed by an intriguing spiciness and forest-floor earth combination in the mouth. Concise acidity adds to this wine’s enthralling profile. Pair with the lamb I mentioned, and duck (sausage or breast) would be perfect as well. Drink now, or cellar until 2029. Score: 8.6

A pinot noir for your table and cellar is one of our summer wine selections.
A pinot noir for your table and cellar is one of our summer wine selections.

Another rosé is here for your pleasure, a 2023 from Souleil Vin de Bonté. And I state with enthusiasm that this wine will bring you pleasure. For around $15 you get a bottle that’s low in alcohol (12.5 percent), a screw-cap selection that’s 95 percent grenache, 5 percent cinsault and 100 percent Mediterranean fun. When your guests arrive, serve them glasses of this along with a charcuterie tray and some olives, and your party will start on a high note.

Bright and appealing acidity, along with that low alcohol level, lets you enjoy more of this wine, and the melange of strawberry, citrus and rose notes are nothing but lovely. Score: 6.8

Looking for a delicious wine to savor at your next garden? This rosé fits the bill as one of our summer wine selections.
Looking for a delicious wine to savor at your next garden? This rosé fits the bill as one of our summer wine selections.

We are on a trend here, as up next is another pinot noir: the 2021 Russian River Valley from Papapietro Perry, a family-run winemaking venture that began more than 35 years ago in Ben and Yolanda Papapietro’s garage in San Francisco and is now located in Healdsburg (if you are planning a trip to the Napa Valley put a visit to the tasting room on your agenda). This 2021 100 percent pinot noir bottling (you can order it for $61 directly from the producer) is a blend of fruit from some of Papapietro Perry’s favorite vineyards, including Vin Noy, Nunes, Bucher and Leras Family.

The vibrant shade of ruby in the glass, the fetching aromas of wild and spicy strawberry, and the elegant black cherry and stone-fruit notes make this wine ideal for dinner party attended by the guests you like the best. I’ll trust your food-pairing decisions, but if you marinade a leg of lamb overnight with garlic and olive oil and salt, you’ll win. A grilled rib eye is another great choice to enjoy with this wine. This one will also age well. Score: 8.5

A 2021 pinot noir from a family that does it right.

Off to New Zealand for the next bottle, a 2023 sauvignon blanc from Dough Wines, a brand created by Distinguished Vineyards and Winery Partners in collaboration with the James Beard Foundation. Dough is committed philanthropically to improving equality in the kitchen, raising awareness of the importance of food sustainability, and helping the restaurant industry recover from the hardships exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Winemaker Branden Hamby sourced the grapes for this selection from Stone Creek Vineyard (Wairau Valley), Starborough Vineyard (Atwater Valley), Palmer Vineyard (Lower Wairau Valley) and Waihopai Terraces (Waihopai Valley) and has come up with something that drinks far richer than its $19 suggested retail price.

Fermentation in stainless steel provides a crisp minerality that had me longing for some cold-water oysters and poached shrimp. Peach, citrus (lemon most evident) and a touch of fresh hay swirl in the glass. A good summer wine for those hot days and nights. Score: 7.2.

Dough Wines has created a sauvignon blanc that drinks richer than its $19 price tag. It is a worthy summer wine.
Dough Wines has created a sauvignon blanc that drinks richer than its $19 price tag. It is a worthy summer wine.

That’s it, five wines for your consideration, bottles that will please you and your guests this summer and into the autumn. (I know, I know.. . . not a sparkling wine in this lineup, but fear not, I have two bottles of bubbles scheduled for inclusion in my next tasting session, so look for that on PaperCity soon.)

Until then, drink well and enjoy thse summer wines with those you love.

For more wine, travel and other stories from James Brock, check out his Mise en Place site.

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