Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Top Ten Summer Wines

Nothing says summer like sunshine, sand, and...wine? With the summer in full swing I thought it only fitting to post this week on some of my favorite summer wines.

1. Pacific Rim - Riesling - Columbia Valley, Washington 2009 - $11

Pacific Rim winery was founded in 1992 by wacky winemaker Randall Grahm of the famed Bonny Doon Vineyards in California. In 2011 Grahm sold Pacific Rim to the Mariani family, proprietors of Italian wine giant Banfi. Today the winery is managed by Nicolas Quille, a self-proclaimed Riesling zealot who has been with the organization since day one.

Pacific Rim is an eco-friendly producer making more than ten styles of Riesling. From sparkling and still to dry and sweet, the winery prides themselves in showcasing the versatility of the grape. I'd classify this particular Riesling as off-dry. It displays characteristics of peaches, pears, green apples, and apricots, and makes for a great partner to spicy dishes, especially Mexican cuisine.

2. Adelsheim
- Pinot Gris - Willamette Valley, Oregon 2010 - $19

Adelsheim Vineyard was founded in 1971 by David and Ginny Adelsheim. They produced their first vintage in 1978, a mere 1300 cases. Today the winery produces over 40,000 cases annually from their 190 acres on 11 different vineyard sites in the Willamette Valley. The winery focuses on varieties that ripen perfectly in the region's climate. This particular wine is loaded with fresh tree fruit aromas of pear and green apple. It has a fresh acidity and is more full-bodied than the lighter Italian Pinot Grigio's on the market. A great pairing for fish and moderately spicy foods.

3. St. Innocent - Pinot Blanc - Willamette Valley, Oregon 2009 -$20

According to St. Innocent: "St. Innocent Winery was founded in 1988 by Mark Vlossak who continues to be our winemaker and President. We produce small lots of handmade, vineyard-designated wine from some of the best sites in the Willamette Valley. Since our founding, we have grown from 600 cases that first year to our current production of 8-10,000 cases, yet each wine is still handcrafted in the very same manner. Year after year, St. Innocent Winery has received recognition from throughout the country and around the world for its outstanding Pinot noir, beautifully crafted white wines, and fair pricing."

This Pinot Blanc comes from the Willamette Valley's Freedom Hill Vineyard. It's lush and round, displaying aromas and flavors of pear and peach. A great partner for fish and fowl.

4. Sho
oting Star - Aligote - Washington 2009 - $12

This wine is produced by former Kendall-Jackson winemaker Jed Steele. While the winery may seem like a large estate, it's actually an artisan producer of quality California and Washington State wines. This particular wine is made from the Aligote grape. According to the producer, " a variety, which is little known but widely planted. It is in fact the fourth most planted wine grape variety in the world, with huge plantings dominating Eastern Europe, Ukraine, and Moldavia. In France it is the other white grape in Burgundy, but has always played second fiddle to the noble Chardonnay grape. Generally, Aligoté is planted in either hilltop or cooler valley locations because it is more cold-tolerant. It has never been planted in any commercial quantity in California, but in Washington State, where cold winters are a fact of life, Aligoté has found a happy home."

This fatter white has stone and tree fruit flavors and aromas, followed by a wonderful floral component. Pick up a bottle of this to enjoy with your favorite shellfish dish.

. Lobster Reef - Sauvignon Blanc - Marlborough, New Zealand 2010 - $13

Lobster Reef was founded by the Brown family of New Zealand. According Lobster Reef importer World Wine HeadQuarters, "The Brown family join the Marlborough wine industry in 1980, initially growing for other companies before starting the own wine company in 1992. In 2002 an opportunity arose to purchase 120 ha of land in the Blind River in the Awatere Valley and the Cape Campbell brand was born. Lobster Reef is the latest release from Cape Campbell and celebrates the unique and rugged coastline just a stones throw from our vineyards."

While the Lobster Reef wines come from the Marlborough region of New Zealand, it's not too "Marlobourghy" if you would. What I mean by that is that while it has a nice, crisp, refreshing acidity, it's not too powerful. All too often New Zealand's Sauvignon Blanc is overly acidic, with too much citrus fruit on the nose and palate. Lobster Reef has a great balance but still displays the wonderful citrus fruit typical of New Zealand's Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is a great pairing for fried foods and fresh summer vegetables.

6. William Fevre - Chablis - Burgundy, France 2009 - $23

This wine comes from France's Burgundy region, specifically Chablis, a name that got a bad rap when it was plastered on large jug wines produced anywhere but Chablis in the 1980's and 90's. Chablis is the northernmost region of Burgundy and is actually closer to Champagne than its Burgundian neighbor, the Cote d'Or. Its northern proximity gives Chablis a cool climate that, coupled with the region's chalky soils, creates ideal conditions for growing clean, crisp Chardonnay.

The Fevre family has been in Chablis for more than two and a half centuries. Present owner, William, founded the Domaine de la Maladière and announced his first harvest in 1959. In 1998, the Henriot family from Champagne took over the reins from Fevre. The crisp, clean Chard from Chablis is lean and mean. It displays tree and citrus fruit aromas coupled with a wonderful wet stone-like minerality on the palate. A great partner for a variety of foods, try this wine with oysters, vegetarian dishes or grilled chicken.

7. Mulderbosch
- Rosé - Coastal Region, South Africa 2010 - $12

Founded in 1989, Mulderbosch is often regarded as a value-packed producer of high-quality, accessible wines. The winery is located in South Africa's Stellenbosch region, a picturesque area that is often considered the country's finest. This particular rosé by Mulderbosch is made from the Cabernet Sauvignon varietal. Its pink color is derived from a limited amount of skin contact with the juice. In the instance of this wine the winemaker soaked the juice with the red grapes skins for a day or two and then bled off, or removed, the pink juice. This wine is loaded with aromas and flavors of fresh red fruits and spice. Try this tasty rosé with summer fruit salads or even grilled meats.

8. Penner-Ash - Pinot Noir - Willamette Valley, Oregon 2008 - $41

According to the Penner-Ash website, "Lynn (Penner-Ash) started Penner-Ash Wine Cellars with husband Ron in 1998, carefully crafting small amounts of Pinot noir and Syrah, while she was still at Rex Hill. Their early success with the label caused them to dream of what they could create and in 2001 they began building the Penner-Ash brand full time.Penner-Ash has achieved impressive growth, going from 125 cases of Pinot noir in 1998 to 9,000 cases of Pinot noir, Syrah, Viognier and Reisling in 2011."

All of their wines are beautifully crafted. This particular wine comes from the infamous 2008 vintage. It is the Penner-Ash entry level Pinot with racy acidity and displays red fruit, spice, and flower aromas and flavors. These characteristics make this wine one of the most food-friendly in the world; but wait a decade or so to test out that claim, it has the characteristics to last.

9. Bodega Renancer - Malbec - Mendoza, Argentina 2009 - $12

Bodegas Renacer is located in northern Mendoza in Perdrie, a sub-region of Luján de Cuyo with a great reputation for producing excellent Malbec. Bodega Renacer is a makes great examples of the high quality of the region. The wine highlighted here is their Punto Final Classico line. This wine is made from Malbec vines that are more than 50 years old. This fruit-forward, medium-plus-bodied red begins with red fruit aromas and flavors of raspberry and cherry followed by loads of dark chocolate and spice. The tannins are supple, making this wine a great partner for roasted or braised meats. If you are looking for an introduction to the great quality Argentina is producing, check out the Renacer's Punto Final Malbec.

10. Pedroncelli -
'Mother Clone' Zinfandel - Sonoma, California 2009 - $15

In 1927 John Pendroncelli Senior purchased a small estate and vineyard in the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma. The property came complete with Zinfandel vines planted in 1904. The winery has come a long way since since then. Today, the vineyards are planted to a variety of premium grape varietals and is filled with modern equipment. According to the producer, two elements from 80 years ago remain unchanged: the exceptional place the Pedroncelli family grows grapes, and the family's dedication to making fine wines. The grapes used in the production of this wine are cloned from the original “Mother” vines, of which one quarter of an acre remain today. Fruit from these 100-year-old vines is included in the blend. Try it with almost any meat off the grill, especially when using barbecue sauce.

An ice cold craft beer may be your go-to when a heat wave rolls in, but this season try burying your toes on the beach with a glass (or few) from this list. Your taste buds will thank you. And if you're looking for a new way to kick back this summer, don't forget to check out CruWineOnline.com for hundreds of other great wine picks and pairings, all wrapped up in entertaining video shorts.

Nicholas Barth
Wine Director
Cru Wine Online