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Food & Drink

Wine, etc.: Perfect wines for the final days of summer | COMMENTARY

Labor Day weekend seems like the last gasp of summer, a too brief occasion that separates the carefree days of family vacation from the impending routine of getting the kids to school and settling into cooler months. Yet, there is still time for an outdoor barbecue and the wines associated with it.

It seems like only yesterday we were excited about cleaning up the grill for the long Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer. Now, here we are, Labor Day, the unofficial end to summer. Still, there are plenty of warm days ahead of us, particularly for those who live in or who are visiting southern states.

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We have many fond memories of the summer’s grilling experiences: The rosé that was perfect with a spicy pork tenderloin; the pinot noir that married so well with grilled salmon; and the bold cabernet sauvignon that complemented a juicy tri-tip steak.

Grilling over charcoal or wood enhances the flavor of food, whether it be fish or beef. These kinds of additional flavors call for a different approach to wine. For instance, a chardonnay that would be perfect with a delicate, panned-seared halibut might not do so well when you add smoke and a summer medley of grilled vegetables. Think fume blanc or a Sicilian grillo instead.

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Pork ribs slathered in a ketchup-based sauce call for a fruity zinfandel or syrah. Burgers don’t need a lot of heft in a wine, so a grenache or a tempranillo from Spain are perfect. Côtes du Rhône , our summer favorite, is a blend of grapes that provide the versatility to marry with beef, pork and even chicken.

If it’s fish you plan for the grill, consider a pinot noir with tuna or salmon. White fish suggests chardonnay, viognier or pinot grigio.

Here are wine suggestions to keep the summer fun going:

7 Deadly Zins Lodi Old Vines Zinfandel 2018 ($16). Jammy and ripe blackberry fruit flavors with a hint of spice and toffee make this full-body zinfandel a great match with ketchup-based sauces.

Rombauer Zinfandel California 2019 ($35). From a producer known for its Carneros chardonnay, Rombauer demonstrates its skill in the red wine arena. Classic California zin with dominant mixed berry notes and a healthy dose of integrated oak. Give this a chill for summertime drinking.

Frank Family Zinfandel 2019 ($45). Blended with a dash of petite sirah, this perennial favorite is concentrated and shows floral aromas with lots of blackberry compote flavors. Hints of mocha and clove.

Bonterra The McNab Mendocino Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 ($60). We loved the luxurious feel of this easy-to-drink wine from Bonterra’s McNab Ranch Vineyard. The 20 percent petite sirah in the blend gives the wine lift. Blueberry and plum notes with hints of mocha, vanilla and leather. Get the steak ready.

Scheid Family Wines Metz Road Pinot Noir 2020 ($36). From a very cool climate vineyard near Pinnacles National Park in Monterey County. Very bright cranberry and cherry notes with a hint of cinnamon dominate the palate. Palate-cleansing acidity completes the well-priced package.

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Robert Hall Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 ($20). We put this in a flight of expensive cabernets and few could pick it out for its price. Another great value from Paso Robles, it is blended with merlot, petite sirah and petit verdot. Lush, ripe plum and blackberry fruit flavors. Full bodied and with fine tannins.

Sebastiani Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 ($45). The forward, luscious fruit of this wine makes it an ideal match with barbecued meats. Cherry and strawberry notes with easy tannins and oak-inspired flavors of vanilla and chocolate.

Vuela de Familia Bastida Ribera de Duero 2020 ($18). This tempranillo just reinforces why we all need to drink more Spanish wine. Not only does it have the forward blueberry, plum and spice we expect, it has great body and length. We couldn’t put it down.

J. Lohr Estate Flume Crossing Sauvignon Blanc 2021 ($14). This is a beautifully lush and delicious sauvignon blanc with herbal and citrus aromas followed by tropical fruit flavors.

E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rouge 2019 ($18). Aromatic blackberry and spice aromas with round dark fruit flavors and a dash of spice.

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Tommasi Lugana Le Fornaci 2020 ($20). Tropical fruit and grapefruit notes with fresh acidity and faint minerality.

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Darioush Napa Valley Viognier 2021 ($55). This delicious and special viognier has the classic aromatics of the Rhone version of this grape variety, but Darioush pumps in a lot more flavor. Whole-cluster pressing and barrel fermentation give it a boost. Generous melon and citrus aromas are chased by rich stone-fruit flavors along a mineral frame.

Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Private Bin Marlborough 2021 ($16). A great example of the classic New Zealand sauvignon blanc style with grapefruit, mango and herbal notes. Thirst-quenching acidity completes the package.

Cliff Lede Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2021 ($32). This beautiful sauvignon blanc, modeled after the Bordeaux blend, has 9 percent semillon and one percent sauvignon vert. That and the use of the musque clone combine to make a dense and rich wine with citrus notes and a good balance between acidity and soft mouthfeel.

Sonoma-Cutrer Les Pierres Chardonnay 2019 ($46). You might be familiar with this producer’s regular and inexpensive chardonnay, but this special version uses only select grapes to make a much more concentrated and lusher chardonnay. Citrus and honeydew melon notes with oak-inspired hints of spice.

Wine picks

FEL Anderson Valley Pinot Gris 2021 ($32). With only five months of aging before bottling, this delicious pinot gris retains fresh acidity that makes for a terrific aperitif. Big aromas of pears and melon are chased by grapefruit and mineral flavors.

Alma Rosa La Encantada Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Blanc 2020 ($35). This silky and refreshing pinot blanc shows off floral aromas and peach, citrus flavors. You won’t be able to stop at one glass.


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