Red, White and Cool: The Summer Wine Round-Up

Jun 17, 2010, 05:07 ET from Heck Estates

SONOMA COUNTY, Calif., June 17 /PRNewswire/ -- Ah, summer! Hot, sunny days ideal for picnics. Evenings of lingering daylight perfect for barbecues and grilling. Months when the pace slows, providing plenty of time to enjoy the delicious foods of the season and pair them with equally delicious wines.

Like summer dining, summer wines are casual, flavorful and fun. Pure pleasure is the main objective in picking wines to go with the foods of summer, so the options are nearly as wide-ranging as the foods. Few wine selections will be a complete disaster, but a common sense approach can help you find the perfect wines to accompany your summer feasts.

Summer and all year around, the character of the food is the primary consideration when choosing a wine or wines to pair with it. A subtle, delicately flavored dish tastes best with a similarly subtle, delicately flavored wine and - not surprisingly - a robust, flavorful dish is best with a robust, flavorful wine. The best matches typically are made when the food and wine complement one another stylistically, for example, steamed lobster and a rich, oaky Chardonnay, but contrast – like steamed lobster and a crisp brut champagne – also can work. Last but not least, versatility should be a consideration when several dishes are to be paired with a single wine.

Summer picnics clearly bring that versatility consideration into play, as a picnic can include everything from sandwiches, potato salad and crudites to quiche, pasta salad and chips and dip. Dry, crisp medium-bodied white wines like Kenwood Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc and Valley of the Moon Winery Unoaked Chardonnay pair beautifully with picnic fare. So do light-bodied reds like Pinot Noir: Kenwood Sonoma County Pinot Noir would be a fine choice. Dry roses such as Valley of the Moon Rosato di Sangiovese are delicious picnic wines as well. Often overlooked as an accompaniment to food, champagnes like Korbel California Brut and Blanc de Noirs are great at picnics, and have an added advantage – a corkscrew isn't needed to open the bottle!

Whether prepared with a dry rub or sauce, summer barbecue has one common denominator – plenty of spice! Here's where medium-bodied reds with similar spice notes make a great match. Prime choices are Zinfandel and Syrah, including Kenwood Sonoma County Zinfandel, Valley of the Moon Syrah and Lake Sonoma Zinfandel. For those who prefer white wines, a dry, flavorful one with plenty of acidity - again, like Kenwood Sauvignon Blanc - works well, especially with barbecued chicken or barbecued turkey breast.

Of course, the grill isn't just for barbecue. Grilled steaks, burgers and sausages are sure to be on the summer menu. For the steaks and burgers, medium to full-bodied reds, especially ones with cedar complexity to echo the smoky character these meats develop over wood or charcoal, are fine matches. Kenwood Cabernet Sauvignon and Lake Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon both fit the bill. Grilled sausages work best with fresh, forward, easy-drinking reds like Kenwood Merlot and Valley of the Moon Sangiovese.

Salmon, shrimp and lobster tails likewise are summer grill favorites. Grilled salmon makes a classic match with Pinot Noirs of depth such as Valley of the Moon Carneros Pinot Noir and also pairs well with forward light to medium-bodied whites with little or no oak influence, such as Valley of the Moon Pinot Blanc. Shrimp and lobster tails from the barbecue have an almost buttery character and rich, balanced Chardonnays like Kenwood Chardonnay or Lake Sonoma Chardonnay highlight that character.

Whichever summer wines you choose, they will taste best served chilled. How much they should be chilled depends on the specific wine. Champagne should be well-chilled, so put it in the refrigerator approximately 1 1/2 hours before putting it in the picnic basket. Rose also tastes best well-chilled; an hour in the refrigerator should do the trick. Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc should be chilled but not overchilled – 50 minutes in the refrigerator is ideal. Even reds benefit from a little chilling; give Pinot Noir and Zinfandel 20 minutes in the refrigerator, and Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot 10 minutes, just enough to let their fruit and balance shine.


Drink responsibly.

SOURCE Heck Estates