Summer seems to fly by so quickly, and before we know it, we'll be bundled up in our winter wardrobes and thinking longingly of warm weather. For that reason, I've been working my way through a large stash of warm-weather wines. Of course, you could drink these wines at any time of year, but they are especially well-suited to patios, picnics, barbecues and the like. Some are from large producers and widely available; others are harder to find, but worth seeking out or ordering from your local supplier.
Crisp, dry sauvignon is particularly tasty in summer, especially alongside cold or hot shellfish and seafood. Tom Gore is a second generation grape grower (he likes being known as a farmer) from Sonoma County and his Tom Gore Vineyards 2015 Sauvignon Blanc ($15) is testament to his abilities. Crisp acidity and a hint of minerality balance out vivid tangerine, grapefruit and melon notes—a lovely wine for a picnic. Meanwhile, from Napa Valley comes Emmolo Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($19.99), made from vines planted in the 1950s. Winemaker Jenny Wagner's sauvignon blanc is less grassy and herbal than its New Zealand cousins, with lime and grapefruit flavors and pretty pear notes on the nose.
Alto Adige is a personal favorite Italian wine region that produces wines that seem more Germanic than Italian. Tiefenbrunner Pinot Bianco Weissburgunder 2014 ($16) is oak-free, with a beautiful bouquet of tropical fruit and ripe apple, good acidity and minerality and a fine finish. And, while you might not normally associate chardonnay with Italy, Alois Lageder Chardonnay 2014 ($15.99)—also from Alto Adige—is a memorable one. It's medium-bodied and unoaked with intense fruit flavors that would serve well as an aperitif or paired with seafood, chicken and light pasta dishes.
Before leaving Italy, I'll bring your attention to the very affordable Torre di Luna Pinot Grigio 2014 ($9.99). Hailing from Venezie, this is not a standard wimpy pinot grigio. It is dry and full-bodied, with sweet pear aromas and would be a terrific partner for octopus, squid, clams, mussels and the like. Made from 40 percent Grechetto, 30 percent Procanico, and 30 percent Malvasia, La Carraia Orvieto Classico 2014 ($10.99) is quickly becoming one of my go-to summer sippers. This Orvieto sees no oak and is especially well-balanced. It was great at a recent dinner that featured seared scallops.
Winemaker Joe Wagner's Elouan Rosé 2015 ($19.99) comes in a clear glass bottle, all the better to enjoy its pale pink hues. Elouan is a Breton word meaning "good light," which is what it takes to produce the pinot noir grape this rosé is made with. Open the plastic cap and aromas of strawberry and raspberry spring forth, followed by more berry fruit flavors on the tongue.
Let's not dismiss red wines for summer sipping, though. FVine Vinho Tinto Reserva ($9.99) from Portugal would be welcome at any barbecue or cookout with its light berry flavors and citrusy finish—a good burger partner. When grilling, I also like to open a bottle of Luce's Lucente ($29), a superb blend of merlot and sangiovese from Tuscany.
Eastern Austrailia's 19 Crimes 2015 ($10.99) is named after the 19 crimes that would result in British rogues being sentenced to live in Australia. It's almost criminal how luscious this Aussie wine is. For heavy-duty grilled meats and barbecue, I really like 2011 Domaine du Théron Cuvée Prestige Malbec ($18), from Cahors in southwestern France. If you've forgotten how well the French do malbec, try this one. And, for a Bordeaux-style barbecue-friendly wine, I turn to Justin 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon ($27.77), a beautifully balanced wine brimming with black currant and black cherry flavors—a very good foil for a thick, grilled steak.