Summer has arrived in all its glory. Birds are chirping, the honeybees are busy, and the heat makes me thirsty ... for wine, my favorite beverage. This time of year, I can't help but shun the heavy reds and pair the weather with something a little lighter and refreshing — mostly white wines and dry rosés. With rosés becoming a little more mainstream and hip, you can find a wider selection out there, especially the heavier, meatier ones. And the whites have been rich and satisfying this year, with an even wider selection of interesting, oddball grapes and well-made traditional ones.
But what is the best way to chill a warm bottle before lounging on the back porch? Some think plunging a bottle of wine into really cold water will damage the fragile contents — a debatable notion at best — preferring to gradually chill it in a refrigerator. That's great for forward-thinkers, but planning is for the anal retentive, and Americans want it now . Besides, the impromptu poolside bash or after-work destress session deflates with a plan. I recommend a bath of half ice, half water in a sink or wine bucket, swirling the bottle around for about 10 minutes. Some restaurants add salt when they quick-chill a bottle of white. Adding salt, especially kosher or rock salts, melts the ice quicker, making the water colder, faster. Or, place it in the freezer for 20 or 30 minutes — just don't forget it's in there or you'll have wine slushy for dinner.
Be careful not to over-chill a white or rosé wine. If you serve it too cold, the temperature will kill the flavor. If it's super cold to the touch, let it rest 10 or so minutes outside the fridge/freezer/ice bath so it loses that thermal edge. >>>
Our suggested summer drinking list:
Antinori 2003 Cervaro Della Sala (Italy) A chardonnay and Italian grape Grechetto blend with creamy vanilla, peaches, and a clean, delicious finish. $43. **** 1/2.
Monkey Bay 2006 Rosé (New Zealand) Tart strawberry and raspberry, with brisk acids that are well balanced enough to indulge in that second or third glass (oh hell, fourth). $11. ****.
King Estate 2005 Domaine Pinot Gris (Oregon) Fermented apples, pears, and smooth vanilla merge in this Oregon big-bodied white. All the grapes come from their estate property, thus earning it the "Domaine" title. $19. *** 1/2.
Talus 2005 Pinot Grigio Lodi (California) Amazingly cheap and good. Loaded with oak, but it's soft with a collection of citrus like orange and grapefruit. $8. ***1/2.
L'Ecole #41 2005 Semillon Columbia Valley (Washington) Musky, steely, and very refreshing with tangerine, fig, and pear all balanced in a delicious sip. Unique. $17. *** 1/2.
Honig 2006 Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley) Amazing scent. Honeyed peaches, wet slate, and grapefruit in the mouth. Sweeter than most sauvignon blancs out there. $15. *** 1/2.
Verget 2004 Chablis Grand Elevage (France) This traditional chablis is earthy with a crisp, austere citrus taste. Creamy with a bit of butteriness. $19. *** 1/2.
Valentin Bianchi 2004 Chardonnay Mendoza (Argentina) Not to be confused with the Paso Robles winery Bianchi, this Argentinean winery has produced a lemon-buttered-popcorn chardonnay. A bit burnt tasting, but so unique, it's cool.$14. ***.
Casa da Silva 2005 Viognier Reserva Colchagua (Chile) Steely and tart for a viognier, but still has the aromatic peaches/apricot/honeysuckle combo. $15. ***.