With the warmer weather in the offing, cold weather parts of the country will start sprouting with outdoor grills. Here are some wines, and one Mezcal, that will go very well with what’s on the charcoals.
Brancott Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2020 ($12)—Too many New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs taste like fruit punch, but this is more restrained by what Brancott calls “gentle “bag pressing to achieve fresh, elegant juice.” Elegant or not, this is a fine cool climate white wine in a year whose weather prevented any disease from developing in the vineyards. With 13% alcohol you can drink it with pretty much anything but red meat all summer long.
Justin Sauvignon Blanc Central Coast 2020 ($16)—an excellent price for an excellent California Sauvignon Blanc that does not express too much grassiness and instead has a rounded and very full flavor. At 13.5% alcohol it is congenial to drink wine but is distinguished by its varietal flavor. I can’t think of anything better than this wine with goat’s cheese in any form, including gently set on the grill to get creamy or with a salad that does not have too much vinegar.
Frank Family Vineyards Zinfandel 2018 ( $38) —Winemaker Todd Graff added a touch of Petite Sirah to the big-bodied Zinfandel and aged the wine for 16 months in 33% new and 67% used French oak barrels. The grapes are from Capell Valley east of the Vaca Mountains, Titus Vineyards in St. Helena and Nissen Vineyard in Calistoga where old-vine Zinfandel dates back to 1950’s. This is a ravishing zin, lots of fruit and ballast in the finish. The alcohol is high but you expect that, so savor this was a charcoal-seared sirloin.
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Siduri Chardonnay 2019 ($25)—Another refined example of Willamette Valley terroir, showing that a cool climate is kind to grapes like Chardonnay that can be so easily manipulated. It spent 10 months in 25% new French oak, which gives it just enough of a sweet undertone and maintains a good balance of acid. This is the ideal white wine for grilled salmon and almost every shellfish.
Laetitia Estate Chardonnay 2019 ($22)—Very high-quality at a modest price for this first-rate Chardonnay from the Arroyo Grande Valley. It has youth on its side and will show well this summer with appetizers like clams, crab and oysters. The vineyards are only 3 miles from the Pacific ocean and that cooling wind has a very positive effect on the grapes.
Los Siete Misterios Doba Yej ($39) —Way too many Mezcals try to distinguish themselves from tequila by being smokier than another, when in fact by tradition Mezcals are not necessarily smoky at all. What you want is nuance, and that’s what you get in Doba Yej from a company that’s been making Mezcal since 2010. It is made in a copper pot still from Espadan agave and they make several variants. This one has some real fire in it, but you can still taste the fruit and a slight smokiness gives it just enough of that flavor enhancer without tasting like ashes.
Chandon Brut ($24.50)—Chandon calls this their “go to” California sparkling, wine which seems a bit modest except that you really could drink this on a regular basis throughout the summer as a fine apéritif with just the right balance of fruit, sugar, acid, and bubbles to carry you through an entire meal and serve it with cheeses also.
Il Conte Villa Prandone Lu Kont Rosso 2016 ($35)—The wines of the Marche region in Eastern Italy are neither well-known nor much exported because they didn’t used to have that much to offer outside of the region itself. This is changing and Il Conte Villa Prandone is showing that they can compete with the better wines of Abruzzo, Puglia and southern Italy. It’s a little expensive but it’s a very fine red and it’s delicious with grilled chicken and pork.
Domaine Faiveley Mercurey Clos Rochette 2018 ($35)—Faiveley has achieved a fine balance between maintaining tradition and being in the forefront of French regional winemaking. Clos Rochette is an 11-acre monopole of the domain with very rocky, clay rich soil with some lime stone and gravel. The vines date back to 1960, and the resulting wines spend 10 to 12 months in stainless steel, which preserves their freshness and fruit. Wines of Mercurey in the Burgundy region tend to be early maturing, so this is really ready to drink right now.
Forte Masso Barolo Castelletto 2015 ($70)—This is one of the most delicious Barolos I have tasted this spring and, even though it’s a bit high in alcohol, the layers of flavors impressed me especially for its distinct flavor of the Nebbiolo grape in Piedmont. Perfect with lamb grilled over a fire.
Lassègue Saint-Émilion Grand Cru 2017 ($60)—I like the way so many French vineyards do not brag on their labels with effusive notes and poetry. This is a straightforward Saint-Émilion with all of the richness that you expect from a grand cru. It is predominantly or perhaps all Merlot, maybe with some Cabernet Franc (locally called Bouchet) in the blend. At $60 it is not a wine to pop the cork on every day, but for a fairly special meal with friends who really enjoy wine this will make them very happy this summer.