Summer 2019 is winding down; the kids are back in school and Halloween candy is already starting to show up in stores. But as we all know, summer weather in Northern California tends to last longer than the calendar suggests. Our September and October can be some of the year's best months for sunny weather and outdoor living. So this would be a good time to spend a few idle minutes musing about the subject of summer wines. We generally think of summer wines as lighter whites and rosés and red wines that can take a little chilling such as lighter Pinot Noirs or Beaujolais. The topic is ripe for ridicule in certain wine circles; the image of some nondescript Pinot Grigio or White Zinfandel, in a plastic wine glass, possibly with (gasp) a few ice cubes, by the pool or beach, is what leaps to the mind of the wine geek. But for most of us, there's nothing like a chilled glass of wine and a few pupuson a balmy summer evening.
So like most of what we love best about the season, summer wines are really about simplicity; easy to drink, less complex wines that don't ask much of us and deliver hedonistic pleasure in spades. But consider for a moment what summer wines are asked to do in terms of food pairings. Some of the most difficult flavors to pair with wines are what we love to eat during summer: fresh artichokes, asparagus, peppers, corn, eggplant, and green beans can be hard to pair with wines because vegetables tend to make wine taste, well, vegetal.A crisp, aromatic Sauvignon Blanc can turn bitter and metallic when paired with certain vegetables, especially if they're steamed or sautéed. Then there is the subject of barbeque, the quintessential summertime fare. Rich, spicy sauces, grilled meats and smoky flavors tend to pair best with a big Cabernet or Syrah, but no one really wants to drink those wines in the middle of summer. Those big, bold flavors can mask many of the subtle flavors in lighter, summer wines like rosés and white wines, and lighter bodied wines just aren't very satisfying with robust food.
So what to do? As usual, let your taste buds be your guide, but here are a few simple rules that will help you get the maximum enjoyment from these late summer days and nights. To best pair white wines with vegetables, look for unoaked wines that are a touch softer with slightly less acidity. Our Bonfiglio Vineyard blend of Viognier, Marsanne and Rousanne is a good choice: there's no oak flavors to cause bitterness and its lower acidity keeps the wine from tasting metallic when served with artichokes or asparagus. For cooking, contrary to barbequed meats, your best bet can be to grill the vegetables. A quick sear on the grill carmelizes the sugars and softens the flavors without overpowering the flavors of the wine.
When it comes to grilled meats, rosé can be a great choice with fish, chicken or even pork, but you want to make sure it's a medium to full bodied rosé. Our Rosebud rosé, made from Grenache and Syrah, is medium bodied with fairly rich flavors and holds up well with even smoked chicken or fish. With heavier grilled meats like steak and ribs, your best bet is Pinot Noir. Our Evening Standard Pinot Noir, organically grown at the Ranch, has flavors of red berries, with appealing earthiness and a subtle touch of oak smokiness that can really shine when served with grilled meats.
Bottom line? Keep it simple. Wine should be fun, not a homework assignment. Enjoy these long summer evenings, and happy pairings!