20 Exciting Summer Wines for 2019
Rosés, whites, reds, and sparkling wines and the stories behind them.
1. Studio by Miraval ($19)—New this year from the Miraval, a collaboration between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie with the Perrin family of Château Beaucastel, this pale pink, delicious rosé made from French Riviera grapes---Cinsault, Grenache, Rolle and Tibouren—has a fleshy texture and is fruity with a saline finish. The Tibouren grape is often the secret ingredient to great rosés.
2. Domaine de Cala Prestige Rosé ($25)—Following a lifelong dream, Los Angeles celebrity chef Joachim Splichal acquired an exquisite wine property in Provence in Brignoles, about 35 miles from Saint-Tropez. All his wines are made with estate grown fruit from his 120 vineyard acres of Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah and Rolle. Since 2015, renown winemaker Stéphane Derenoncourt has made this salmon-hued rosé, aged three months in oak, with its lively flavors of fruit and spice.
3. Early Mountain Vineyards Rosé ($25)—With grapes grown at the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, this blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah has strawberry, peach and floral aromas, bright citrus acidity and a savory note on the finish. A truly delicious rosé from an unexpected place.
4. Fort Ross Rosé of Pinot Noir ($24)—Fort Ross Vineyard specializes in Pinot Noir grown on the high coastal ridges of the Sonoma Coast along the Pacific Ocean. Winemaker Jeff Pisoni makes this 100% Pinot Noir rosé in the French saignée method soaking the grapes on their skins for 24 hours, which produces a darker ruby color and more tannins. It’s a fuller-bodied food wine with vibrant flavors of white peach, watermelon, and cranberry and a refreshing acidity.
5. Bonterra Rosé ($16)--Made from certified organic grapes from Mendocino County, the light salmon pink rosé is aromatic and flavorful with an array of notes from strawberry, rosewater, pineapple and watermelon to peach and pomegranate. It’s ideal to match with Asian food or grilled fish and summer salads.
SPARKLING WINES—Rosé and Brut
6. Volage Brut Rosé Sauvage ($28)—Coming in a designer bottle with ornate label, Volage is a Crémant de Loire made from 100% old vines Cabernet Franc in méthode traditionelle. The renowned winemaker Patrick Léon uses hand-harvested Cabernet Franc grapes at peak maturity, which he leaves on the lees for an unusually long time. The wine has a low dosage of only three grams, which makes it especially refreshing and low-calorie.
7. Le Grand Courtâge Brut Rosé ($22)--Made in Nuits-Saint-Georges from grapes sourced in Burgundy, Languedoc and Beaujolais, this is crisp bubbly with floral aromas (violet, lilac) and flavors of wild berries. Works well as a floater in cocktails and in Mimosas.
8. Chandon Limited Edition Brut, Summer ($19)—Coming in a painted bottle with a colorful brush stroke design, the Brut sparkling has apple, citrus and pear aromas, vivacious bubbles and a dry finish. Since she became chief winemaker in 2016, 36-year-old Pauline Lhote, originally from the Champagne region of France, changed Chandon’s blend making it less sweet (less dosage) and more refreshing.
9. Zenato Lugana Metodo Classico Brut DOC ($39)--An elegant bubbly with aromas of white flowers and stone fruit, Zenato Brut is made from 100% Trebbiano di Lugana, an indigenous variety to the Lake Garda region of Lombardy. It’s made in the Champagne method and aged 18 months—don’t call it Prosecco! The Zenato family owns vineyards in San Benedetto di Lugana, 15 miles west of Verona on the shores of Lake Garda. The wine pairs especially well with lobster.
10. J Vineyards & Winery Cuvée 20 ($38)—A highly flavorful Brut, made in the Champagne method and aged on its lees for 24 months, the wine has lovely aromas of apple, tangerine and almond and flavors of wild strawberry, cherry and raspberry. From the Russian River Valley in Sonoma, the cuvée, a blend of 51% Chardonnay, 41% Pinot Noir and 8% Pinot Meunier, was created for J Vineyards’ 20th anniversary.
11. Dog Point Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($25)—This classic Marlborough, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is spectacular with citrus, guava and pineapple flavors intermixing with flinty and smoky notes. Expressive, complex and vibrant, it’s made from 100% estate grown fruit that is organically farmed and hand-picked.
12. Garofoli “Podium” Verdicchio 2015 ($26)—Garofoli winery located in eastern Italy’s Le Marche region, situated between the Apennine Mountains and the Adriatic Sea, makes outstanding Verdicchio with flavors ranging from honeyed pear, melon, almonds to peach and apricots. There’s a salinity from the sea influence and a nice minerality since the grapes are grown on limestone soils. With a bit of age Verdicchio takes on Chablis-like characteristics of flintiness. Gianluca Garofoli, the fifth generation of his family, says, “Verdicchio will be the next great white grape from Italy. It could be our white answer to Barolo.” He calls it a marine white wine and suggests pairing it with mussels and clams.
13. Swanson Vineyards Pinot Grigio 2018 ($21)— This Napa Valley winery found an outstanding vineyard source in the Piacine Hills of San Benito, inland from the Monterey Bay where the ocean air cools the grapes and preserves the acidity. This Pinot Grigio has lovely aromas of stone fruit—peach and apricot--and honeydew melon and a savory almond note on the finish. Winemaker Robin Akhurst, originally from Scotland, goes for distinctive flavors and textures in this fuller bodied Pinot Grigio.
14. Villa Matilde Falanghina 2018 ($20)— A lovely white wine, made from 100% Falanghina grape from Campania, is intensely floral and has tropical fruit flavors. With four estate vineyards and two production facilities in Falerno and Irpinia DOCG of Taurasi, Villa Matilde is a quality producer of Campania wines since 1961 and has pioneered the revival on indigenous grapes like Falerno and Falanghina. The floral white pairs well with prawns, clams and mussels.
15. FEL Pinot Gris, Anderson Valley ($25)—From Anderson Valley, a cool climate region known for producing wines of bright acidity, FEL is a small winery within the Cliff Lede winery family. Winemaker Ryan Hodgins makes wines blending fruit from different vineyard sites. In the case of this rich tropical Pinot Gris, he blends grapes from three vineyards in the warmer part of the Anderson Valley.
16. Imagery Chardonnay ($20)—Based in Sonoma, the Imagery winery was founded in 1983 by Joe Benziger and now his daughter Jamie is winemaker. Jamie mixes Chenin Blanc into the Chardonnay blend, which gives a floral aroma and an uplift to its apple, lime and pear flavors. This is not your buttery oaky California Chardonnay.
17. Stemmari Grillo 2017 ($10)—Made from 100% Grillo, a white varietal native to Sicily and used in Marsala wine as well, Grillo has an aromatic fragrance and a mouth filling richness. It pairs perfectly with seafood, white meats and vegetable dishes.
18. Barco Reale di Carmignana 2016 ($17)— From the storied wine estate Tenuta di Capezzana in the Carmignano district of Tuscany, this delightful Sangiovese-dominate blend (with Cabernet Sauvignon, Canaiolo and Cabernet Franc) has vivid blackberry and dark cherry flavors. In the 1600’s the wine property was owned by Catherine de’ Medici, who imported Cabernet Sauvignon from France to the estate. In 1920 Count Alessandro Contini Bonacossi bought the property and with his son, Ugo, they were able to establish it as a DOC (in 1975) and then the higher designation of a DOCG in 1990. Unlike other Chianti regions where only Italian grapes, specifically Sangiovese, must be used by law, in Carmignano, they’ve always allowed 10—20% Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend.
19. Lievland Vineyards Bushvine Pinotage 2017 ($19)—Pinotage is misunderstood. It’s a South African grape that can be a bit herbal and not to the tastes of Americans. But this Pinotage, blended with a small percentage of Cinsault and Shiraz from South Africa’s Paarl region, is just lovely. It has brambly berry notes, scents of violet and it’s fresh and bright without being overly herbal. Pinotage will work well with the array of meats in your summer barbecue, especially shish kabob.
20. Hedges Family Estate Red Mountain ($28)—This is my house red. It’s an earthy red with notes of dark fruit, pomegranate, ginger, and leather from Washington state’s exuberant biodynamic winemaker, Christophe Hedges.