It’s pretty hard to escape the heat this time of year no matter where you live. Temperatures are soaring to record levels in the unbearable Southwest. Elsewhere, it isn’t uncommon to see temperatures well above 90 degrees accompanied by uncomfortable humidity. It’s times like these we confine our outdoor activities to morning and evening.
It’s hard for us to enjoy a red wine at this time of the year unless we are in air-conditioned rooms. Except for grilling steaks, our summer fare tends to have more seafood or even just a salad. It’s a much better time for chilled white wines. The fresh acidity of sauvignon blanc, for instance, cools the palate and makes a nice aperitif. Fruits, vegetables and grilled chicken with citrus sauces are ideal food to pair with sauvignon blanc.
This is also a good time to explore the white wines with less familiar grapes but with equal acidity and fresh fruit character. The white wines from Italy, Chile, Portugal and Spain are terrific to enjoy at this time of year.
Here are a few you probably haven’t tried but would be rewarded if you did:
Castello Banfi San Angelo Pinot Grigio IGT 2019 ($19). Produced mostly from Montalcino in southern Tuscany, this pinot grigio has the lush peach, pear and tropical fruit notes that makes you reach for another glass.
Castello Banfi La Pettegola Vermentino IGT 2019 ($20). Also from Tuscany, this vermentino is a great aperitif to enjoy on the deck for happy hour. Fresh and forward fruit with a dash of spice.
Vigne Surrau Limizzani Vermentino di Gallura DOCG 2020 ($16). The producer blends fruit from all its estate vineyards to come up with a fresh and pure vermentino with exotic fruit flavors.
Castello del Terriccio Con Vento IGT 2020 ($45). This is a very intriguing blend of sauvignon blanc and Viognier grown near Pisa where the soils are loaded with stones and fossils. The result is a dose of minerality to marry well with the citrus flavors and generous aromas of this wine.
Ferraton Pere & Fils St. Joseph La Source Blanc 2016 ($38). From the Rhone Valley of France, this marsanne has stone fruit notes with a dash of citrus and good acidity. It’s a perfect match to shrimp, salads and fruit dishes.
Borreo Napa Valley Kerner 2019 ($38). This new line from Silverado Vineyards pays tribute to Felix Borreo who operated a grocery in Napa in the late 1800s. The owners purchased the property in 1992 and named the vineyard the Soda Creek Ranch. This kerner — a white German grape — is one of several special wines it makes from the property. Generous aromas of melon and citrus with soft — almost sweet — honeydew and peach flavors.
Bonny Doon Vineyard Vin Gris de Cigare 2020 ($15). Randall Grahm’s name is still attached to this legendary winery that clings to its whimsical portfolio. We have always liked this blend of southern Rhone varieties from the Central Coast. Pineapple and citrus notes.
Bonny Doon Vineyard Le Cigare Blanc 2020 ($15). This is a blend of Grenache blanc, vermentino and clairette blanche grapes. Very aromatic with citrus and pineapple notes.
Olema Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2020 ($15). This is a steal in the sauvignon blanc market. Citrus aromas, grapefruit and tropical fruit flavors with bright acidity.
Hugues Beaulieu Picpoul de Pinet AOC 2019 ($12). We love to pour picpoul to guests because it never fails to please. From the Languedoc region of southern France, this wine is guaranteed to delight the palate. Fresh citrus fruit and grapefruit notes with zesty acidity.
Scheid Vineyards Estate Sauvignon Blanc Monterey 2020 ($22). All stainless steel and 100% sauvignon blanc, this wine is rich and smooth and presents a complex mixture of grass, herbs, citrus, peach and melon flavors. Worth the price, and then some.
Blackbird Vineyards Dissonance Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($20). We like what the 20% sémillon adds to this delicious wine that draws grapes from Napa Valley and the Knights Valley of Sonoma County. Exotic fruit aromas, grapefruit and pineapple flavors with brisk acidity.
Priest Ranch Grenache Blanc 2019 ($22). We’ve enjoyed this wine for many vintages, and it is the perfect white wine to complement summer. Fresh, brisk acidity, pure citrus and tart apple flavors.
Ladera Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2020 ($36). More complex than your average sauvignon blanc, this version is from the cool, wind-swept Ryan’s Vineyard in the Oak Knoll District. The blending of sauvignon musqué and some oak barrel aging gives the wine a plumpness and depth. Tropical fruit and stone-fruit flavors.
Chalk Hill Estate Sauvignon Blanc Chalk Hill Sonoma County 2019 ($23). An amazing sauvignon blanc somewhat reminiscent of a grand cru Bordeaux white wine. Classic herbal and grassy notes accented with scents and a taste of roses and violets. A hint of oak with elegant honey notes.
Tenute di Arceno Valadorna 2015 ($55). Merlot is the foundation of this fruit-forward blend from Tuscany. Cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and petit verdot gives it a Bordeaux character, but more forward in style with ripe cherry notes and a hint of vanilla and black licorice.
J. Lohr Carol’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($60). Named after Jerry Lohr’s late wife, Carol’s Vineyard has been providing fruit for this wine since 1984. Blended with 18% petit verdot, the wine serves up dark fruit and cassis aromas with luscious red fruit flavors and hints of tobacco and spice. Since 2008 proceeds from this wine have funded mammograms and services in support of early breast cancer detection.
J. Lohr Estates Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 ($17). This delicious, fruit-forward cabernet blend from Paso Robles is one of the best values on the market. Petite sirah, petit verdot, merlot, cabernet franc and syrah add to layers of juicy fruit character that ranges from black cherries to raspberries.