My first winter in Chicago lived up to the hype: it was crazy cold and I spent much of it hiding inside. Now that it’s almost June, and spring is finally here, I’ve been indulging in the warm weather activities I’ve waited months for. For some of my friends, the first sight of tulips means that first water-beaded cup of iced coffee. For me it means the first glass of cold wine sipped on a restaurant terrace. The list of my favorite spring/summer wines is endless (ha!), but most of them, especially the whites, share a few common qualities: I like whites that are refreshing with a mineral base and notes of white flowers, citrus and earth. Some of the wines below are more structured than others and hold up well to heavy summer dinners. Others are light and flighty, and can be quaffed on their own or with an epic cheese or seafood platter.
Domaine Ilarria: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tannat
This is the wine that Eric A of The New York Times described as tasting like “liquid rock, combined with blood and iron.” It’s full-bodied, with red fruits and black pepper. If you’re thinking “that sounds awfully like a red wine,” you’re not far off. I wouldn’t call this an “easy drinking” rose for sipping on at the beach, but it also doesn’t have the same syrupy, heaviness that I’ve found in a lot full-bodied roses. It’s structured, refreshing and there’s something in its earthy tang that makes me think of the hot clay and limestone hills of Basque country France, where it’s produced. Pair with burgers, cornish hens, or a vegetable couscous with a mushroom sauce.
Long Island, NY
I don’t know why but I once wrote-off New York wines because they were from New York, and what kind of wine could possibly grow here? That was dumb, because two of my go-to summer wines are from the Bedell winery on Long Island. Our parents discovered this place on a weekend trip to Orient Point and after several days of biking and imbibing, they came home with a case of Bedell wine and subscription to have more delivered throughout the year. All of the wines are tasty, but I’ll start you off with the viognier. Their viognier is not unlike its French counterparts, and it has heavier jasmine and peach notes, and a luxurious texture. I usually like it with a simple pasta -- something with a lot of olive oil, cheese, and green vegetables.
Cave Caloz Coteaux de Sierre La Mourziere
A petite arvine from the Valais region Switzerland, this thing is delicious but will probably be hard to find. If you can find it, it’s perfect for drinking on its own but would also go great with salty cheese and crusty bread. Medium-bodied with hints of white flower, lime and grapefruit, it’s basically my ideal white wine. Petite arvine wines are known for their mineral quality and they are never aged in oak barrels, which helps preserve their freshening zing.
Broadbent: Loureiro, Trajadura, Pedernã
Costa Verde, Portugal
People make fun of me for this one. Namely the people who ridicule my white wine spritzers -- that’s what 6 months of study abroad Austria will do to you. Sometimes you just want something fizzy that’s not a cocktail. Vinho Verde, which is pretty low in alcohol, has a bit of effervescence and unsurprisingly the characteristics I look for in a white: floral smell, limey and green taste. This is an excellent seafood wine -- especially for mussels and clams -- or enjoying on its own. I’m curious how it would mesh with a lobster roll, and I’ll pursue that as soon as I leave the midwest and can find a proper one.
Mulderbosch: Cabernet Sauvignon
Stellenbosch, South Africa
Given the variety of foods and entertaining that happens throughout the summer, it’s important to have a couple go-to wines that are flexible: crowd-pleasers that pair with many different types of food. Mulderbosch (gently structured with warm red fruits) is one of the few wines I’ve found that I’ve enjoyed with Thai food, which I can’t get enough of during the summer, and with salmon, chicken kebabs, or just on its own. A colleague of mine from Pennebaker Hegedus introduced me to it, and we used to love opening a bottle for everyone on Friday afternoons. Summer Fridays, indeed!