Value Wines for Summer


August is here -- along with warm, steamy weather for most of the country. For some that means switching over to chilled cocktails or beer. What it should really mean for wine drinkers is carefully selecting wines that are well made, delicious, value driven and refreshing. The last thing anyone wants to sip in hot weather is a big, bloated and ponderous wine. Crisp acid along with juicy, thirst quenching flavors are what you should be aiming for.

With all of that in mind I tasted through dozens of wines in different settings recently. Through it all I was looking for selections that had the qualities I desire in my summer wines. There’s nothing wrong with a summer sipper or porch pounder on occasion, but those get boring pretty quickly. Most of the time I need a bit more than that to keep my tongue and my brain more engaged. From all of that tasting I culled the “sweet 16” below for your enjoyment, cheers!
There’s no need to settle for overly simple wines, there are plenty of choices out there that combine all of the above qualities with a level of complexity and sophistication to keep savvy wine drinkers engaged and coming back for more. Desiring a wine that’s refreshing doesn’t mean you have to stick to white, though there are plenty that fit the bill. Rosé can provide the best qualities of both red and white grapes, so often they’re the perfect choice. While it’s certainly best to drink less red in the heat, there’s no reason to avoid them altogether. Fruit driven expressions that aren’t overly burdened with oak work well. Those selections often benefit when you throw them in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or so to give them a little bit of a chill.
In addition to Viognier (87%), small amounts of French Colombard (9%), and Muscat (4%) were included in the blend. All of the fruit is from Clarksburg, California. White peach aromas light up the nose. The palate is stuffed with a bevy of fresh and dried apricot flavors as well as hints of crème fraiche. Mesquite honey and a touch of toasted almond emerge on the mellifluous finish.
I recently spent the better part of a week in Abruzzo Italy at Masciarelli. Their beautiful portfolio of wines includes this incredibly proportionate white blend which I enjoyed numerous times during my stay. Three indigenous varieties (Trebbiano, Cococciola and Pecorino) are blended together to create this wine. The nose shows off white flowers and yellow fruits. Loads of fresh fruit flavors dominate the palate with golden delicious apple, pear and banana all playing a role. Minerals and spice dominate the long finish. Whether by itself or paired with cheeses or light foods this is an outrageously good value.
Artetca is a blend of Vermentino, Viognier and Petit Manseng. Yellow melon aromas are tinged by bits of thyme. Lemon zest, hazelnut and peach are present on the succulent palate. Sour yellow fruits, spice notes and a hint of tangerine rind emerge on the crisp, clean finish.
This Prosecco is entirely Glera from the province of Treviso in the Veneto. After fermentation and tank aging it spends a month in bottle prior to release. The nose is a mélange of citrus and orchard fruits with bits of savory herbs present as well. Ripe, juicy citrus and fleshy yellow fruit flavors are evident on the generous palate. The clean, crisp finish is above average in length. Sparkling wine makes most reasonable people happy, here’s a well-priced example for summer enjoyment.
All of the fruit for this wine (100% Chenin Blanc) came from the Loire Valley. Orchard fruit aromas are joined by hints of orange zest. Anjou pear and white peach dominate the palate. Copious spice and mineral notes mark the long, refreshing finish. 
All of the fruit for this Viognier came from the Landa Vineyard in Sonoma Valley. Lemon ice and apricot aromas light up the nose here. The palate is stuffed with tempting and even keeled yellow fruit flavors. Stone fruits, minerals, spice and a tiny hint of mesquite honey mark the long, lovely finish. This is a well-balanced and remarkably delicious example of Viognier. You may want to chill two bottles.
This Italian Rosè from Abruzzo was produced entirely from Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Masciarelli has been producing this offering since 1981. This is intentionally made Rosé produced from dedicated fruit. It has a beautiful ripe strawberry hue. Somewhat intense aromas of red fruit jump from the nose. Red cherry, strawberry and gentle hints of plum dominate the palate. All of these elements continue on the crisp, refreshing and lip-smacking finish. This wine draws you in for sip after sip with its incredibly appealing aromas and flavors.
This Rosé is made from Grenache (89%) and Syrah (11%) from Paso Robles. Candied cherry and watermelon aromas jump with conviction from the nose of this incredibly accessible and food friendly Rosé. A tasty mélange of red berry flavors is evident through the palate along with a nice complement of spices. Continuing juicy red fruit flavors are in play on the succulent finish.
This offering is entirely Tempranillo. All of the fruit is from the D.O. Pago de Arínzano. This is an intentional rosé and the fruit was grown, harvested and fermented specifically for this wine. The color is a striking light salmon. Red fruit aromas mark the nose and continue on the palate where wild strawberry and Bing cherry are joined by a hint of tangerine zest and spice. The finish is long and lingering with red fruit flavors and spice continuing. This fresh and balanced wine is best served a couple of degrees warmer than the average Rosé allowing its complexity and elegance to fully emerge. This is a particularly exceptional value.
This Rosé, produced using the saignee method, is entirely Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. Ripe strawberry aromas are tinged by wisps of sage. Bing cherry, tangerine zest and a wallop of watermelon flavors fill the juicy palate. Bits of savory herbs, white pepper and continued red fruits emerge on the mouthwatering finish. Serve this one ice cold.
This wine was made entirely from skin fermented Pinot Gris grown on their LIVE certified sustainable Estate Vineyard in Willamette Valley Oregon. Being skin fermented it’s bigger than your average Rosé and it shows off terrific structure. Orange and tangerine zest aromas are at play alongside red fruits. The palate is stuffed with red apple, pomegranate and sour cherry. The finish has oodles of depth and precision. You’ll be thinking about this wine long after the final sip has disappeared. 
Clif Family’s Rosé is composed entirely of Grenache sourced in Mendocino County. It has a gorgeous light pink color. The friendly nose shows of juicy red fruit aromas. Citrus notes, orchard fruit and strawberry flavors all play a role on the palate. The long and persistent finish is spicy, clean and refreshing. 
This wine is 100% Nero D’avola from Sicily. candied black cherry aromas are joined by subtle tar on the nose. Red fruits tinged with black are evident throughout the palate which counter balances dark fruit flavors and a medium weight. Sour black cherry, wisps of earth and spice notes are present on the finish. This versatile wine will work equally well with pizza, burgers or taco Tuesday.
While Argentine Malbec may be more familiar, France is its birthplace. This wine is entirely Malbec from the Cahors region. Aging occurs over a year in 33% new French oak. It’s dark and inky in color. Blackberry, raspberry and plum pudding spice aromas are prominent. There’s a heft and fullness to the palate but it never strays over the top. Dark fruit flavors rule the day and lead to the earthy, layered finish. If you’re grilling red meat this summer, here’s your wine.
All of the fruit (100% Pinot Noir) is from Willamette Valley.  For the price point this wine does an excellent job representing Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. Red and black fruit aromas are followed by bits of black tea and cherry on the palate. Copious spices, earth and cranberry are present on the finish. Pinot Noir with good varietal typicity is hard to find under $20, count this one among their small number.
This red blend was produced from fruit sourced in Washington State’s Columbia Valley. This fruit forward red blend shows off bold, ripe strawberry aromas. The palate is stuffed with cranberries, blackberry, and wisps of cinnamon. Pomegranate and black pepper spice round out the finish.  This will pair well with grilled meats in particular.

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