The recent portfolio tasting of a New York distributor seemed the perfect occasion to find some terrific summertime wines. But why just offer my opinion? I asked my friend Susan, the Amateur, to join me (the Pro.)
Our goal was to taste, talk about and take notes on as many white and rosé wines as possible in two hours, then go back to our secret lairs and each come up with our top five wines for summer.
Our tasting was heavy on Argentine wines, with some French, Spanish and California wines represented, as well as a box white from Washington State for good measure. Virtually all were under $20 a bottle.
So what are the wines we don’t want to live without over the next few months?
This rosé offered beautiful color and nice weight on the tongue. So many can be weak and watery, but this offers nice structure, a good round feel, and lots of floral and cherry notes. It’s a blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah and Rolle – I suspect I am also drawn to the unique mix of grapes as well.
2. 2011 Bohigas Blanc de Blancs Xarel-lo, $12 (Spain)
To me, this crisp (almost bubbly) refreshing wine will “take the edge off summer.” I also used “perky” to describe the wine. It has nice floral notes that make this a great wine on its own, but also allow it to pair with the crisp, bright foods we’ll be enjoying over the coming months.
3. 2011 Crios de Susana Blabo Rose of Malbec, $15 (Argentina)
This wine pops with aromas and flavor. There are hints of rose and cotton candy on the palate, and a long finish filled with ripe red berries. A wine so good you almost want to eat it. Why not keep some around?
4. 2011 Mahoney Vermentino Las Brisas, $18 (California)
This wine’s crisp, refreshing flavors make it a quintessential summertime wine. Vermentino is traditionally an Italian wine; this Cali version shows more fruit notes, a touch of white flowers, and a slightly nutty quality. A fine wine for enjoying alone or with food.
5. 2011 Bedrock Abrenta Albarino, $26 (California)
Albarino – a varietal most associated with Spain – makes an excellent alternative to Chardonnay. This wine, which is crafted with Napa fruit, is smoother and more restrained than its European counterpart. It shares the same floral and white fruit flavors, and is a delightfully “delectable” wine for summer.
My Amateur status was in full bloom as I tried to find the tasting. “It’s a Polaner event,” Kathleen had told me, so when I failed to find the address, I searched for Polaner (restaurant? event space?) on my iPhone map.
I now know what is, perhaps, basic knowledge for the true wine professional; Polaner is an importer. I eventually located the grand Gotham Hall, and spent an afternoon tasting with Kathleen, The Professional.
I was particularly interested in finding budget wines that I could serve with grilled dinners on the deck and have on hand for beach, park, or barbecue outings. Here are my top five.
I loved this Spanish white because it was soft, yet crisp – and so easy to drink. There were some floral notes to the bouquet, and the taste was more mild vegetable than fruit – think parsnips. But best of all is the price. As the Amateur, I urge you to stock up!
2. 2010 Coquena Torrontes, $13 (Argentina)
We tried several variations of Argentinian whites made with the Torrontes grape, a new varietal for me. My favorite was that by Coquena. Torrontes defies easy comparison with other varietals. What struck me most were the tropical fruit flavors, like grapefruit and star fruit. Torrontes has a quiet sweetness that is balanced by a trace of tartness. This wine is a steal.
I tend to avoid heavy, oaky Chardonnays, so was pleased to discover this Argentinian white, made from 50% Saint Jeannet (an almost-extinct French varietal) and 50% Chardonnay. The overbearing parts of Chardonnay are toned down by the addition of the Saint Jeannet, another variety that was new to me. I tasted hay and several fruits, including pear and lemon.
4. Power Boxes, $28 (Washington)
The more I read about boxed wine, the more intrigued I am. Is it really possible to have a truly drinkable wine in packaging that is good for the environment, easy to store, houses a wine guaranteed not to be corked, and will last and last?
It seems that it is.
I liked both the 2010 Chardonnay Power Box and 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Power Box from Powers Winery of Washington’s Columbia Valley. Kathleen and I agreed that the Cab outshined the Chardonnay, but I would drink either, with the box perched on a picnic table and the wine poured from the spigot.
4. 2010 Bedrock Cuvee Karatas, $37 (California)
This blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc from Sonoma has an unusual bouquet and taste. It has a full taste for a white and, initially, a real sweetness grounded in fruit. But it is complex, with flavors morphing almost into a spiciness like cinnamon. In my notes I wrote “fruit roll-up” which sounds derogatory in retrospect, but I meant it in the best possible way.
It’s one of the few wines I’ve find myself thinking back to since the tasting. This wine is fifth on my list only because of its price. I’m more likely to plan a meal around it – salmon burgers or paella – than to pour a glass spontaneously while digging in my garden on a late summer afternoon.