With Summer coming to a close, there is no better way to end it than pairing your favorite dish with one of our favorite wines from this month. We had so much fun back in July, celebrating wine month that we continued the tasting into August. As a result, we've added even more favorites to our list. We couldn't help but fall for honeysuckle-sweet Italian Rieslings, rich Austrian Grüners, red sparkling wine from California, and more. Take a look at what wines we tried every (week)day this month.
Although still a rare sight, sparkling red wines are quickly gaining ground in wineries and restaurants across the United States. My first experience with this effervescent treat was a few years back at De Kas in Amsterdam, and more recently, I've seen the varietal hit Gioia Pizzeria, my go-to local pizza place. Generally speaking, Italian Brachetto and Lambrusco are what's on offer, as they're the most well-known examples of red sparklers, but there are a handful of worthy bottles produced on our own home turf.
Today's bottle comes from Northern California's Chandon Winery, a proud maker of an exceptional sparkling red ($30). This Pinot Noir and Zinfandel blend is currently exclusively available at the winery, making a visit to the gorgeous Yountville location all the more enticing, and here's why.
Mention Sonoma or Napa in a conversation, and most people will nod their heads in recognition; sadly, the same can't be said of Mendocino, even though its high elevation and moist, mineral-rich soil make it an ideal region for wine production. Near tailor-made for Pinot Noir (a favorite around Sugar HQ), discover Mendocino's finest with a bottle of 2009 La Follette Manchester Ridge Pinot Noir. While it's on the pricier side at $50 a bottle, the carefully crafted wine exemplifies the vibrant Pinots that come out of this up-and-coming area.
The wine's cherry and rose scent coaxed us to pour a glass on the heavier side, and as we sipped, the flavor bloomed on our palates. Smooth yet smoky, jammy yet peppery, and floral yet earthy: each sip built upon itself with new notes. Although many Pinot Noirs are thinner bodied and lower in tannins, this wine held its own without being overly acidic. We'd pair it with rich, crispy duck confit or a vegetarian entrée with portobello mushrooms.
While Susannah will be in Germany sampling Rieslings at their source this Labor Day weekend, I'll be stuck stateside, but believe it or not, I'm not lamenting my lack of long-weekend plans. That's because I'll be taking things easy, sipping on a well-chilled glass of 2010 Arnaldo Caprai Grecante Grechetto dei Colli Martani ($20), an Italian white wine that I consider my Summer secret weapon.
While any variety of drinks might do the trick, Grecante is my wine of choice for sweltering Summer days; it's immensely refreshing, thanks to its mouth-puckering acidity and smooth long finish. I'll be pairing mine with a good book, but it'd be equally at home consumed in concert with grilled fish, burrata stuffed squash blossoms, or a simple appetizer of cheese and crackers.
What will you be drinking this Labor Day weekend?
Photos: Anna Monette Roberts
We've been on a bit of an Italian wine kick lately at Sugar HQ, imbibing everything from spumante Rosé to smooth Valpolicella. Now, you might think that this recent surge would quell my interest in the region (at least temporarily), but rather, I've found myself lingering longingly in the Italian section of the wine store, plotting my next exploration by glass.
Today's find was a happy accident of sorts, plucked off the shelf by my beau at random — or so he says — to pair with a home-cooked Italian feast. The 2008 Fattoria del Cerro Vino Nobile di Montepulicano ($20), demarcated with an official, purple DOCG label, signifies this wine is truly sourced from Tuscany. Further establishing its authentic Italian origins, the wine is a blend of Sangiovese, Colorino, and Mammolo grapes. Although it sounded foreign to our taste buds, the first sip had us sold. We found that its light body and velvety-smooth texture paired exceptionally well with a range of Italian cuisine, from bucatini coated in vodka sauce to pork ragu.
One last note: while we relished this bottle in its relatively young state, this is the sort of wine that's worth aging. So if you're feeling particularly canny, snap up a bottle or two, and hold tight. I can only imagine what wonders a few years will add.
It's the final week of our wine month, and we were not about to turn a blind eye to the bottle of the 2010 Landmark Overlook Chardonnay ($25) sitting in our wine collection. Admittedly, 2009 is my preferred year for Chardonnay (cue the eye rolls), thanks to the buttery, oaky flavors prominent in that vintage, but I'm always willing to try another 2010 in hopes of finding that elusive flavor profile that my appetite craves. While, this bottle was more typical of Sonoma's 2010 run and is zestier and more acidic than I prefer, there is still much to praise.
Upon opening, the Chardonnay held so much promise. A robust perfume of toasted wheat, brown butter, and toasted oak filled the air. Yet on the tongue, it was sharp, citrusy, and pucker inducing, much like preserved lemon. While this particular style of Chardonnay might be too overwhelming for daytime drinking and light salad lunches, a well-chilled bottle would play nicely with creamy Gruyere, or butter-slathered seafood, spritzed with fresh lemon wedges. The 2010 Landmark Overlook Chardonnay may not have the exact smoothness of the Chardonnays I crave, but it's a worthy bottle to pair with late Summer and early Fall suppers.
Over Labor Day weekend, while everyone in America is plotting a grillout menu or basking on the beach, I'll be somewhere in the southern region of Germany tasting Riesling with the Wines of Germany. Of course, to get myself into the spirit, there's only one thing I could possibly be drinking: Riesling, the varietal that put Germany on the wine map.
The Sugar HQ Riesling of the moment? The 2011 Armand Riesling Kabinett from Reichsrat von Buhl ($20). Despite its modest price tag, the wine hails from one of the most respected wineries in Germany, von Buhl.
In our tasting, its green-tinged straw hue belied the dynamic aromas inside the glass — notes of peach, nectarine, vanilla, lemon-lime, and even pear. The aromas gave way to a zingy sip of white stone fruit with a lot of acidity and a lingering, well-balanced finish.
This wildly quaffable bottle isn't just ideal for a sendoff to Germany; it also makes for a pick-me-up at the end of a warm Summer night, preferably with a strong, creamy cheese or a light fruit dessert.
Photos: Nicole Perry
I was skeptical of Mionetto's wine spritzer, Il Spr!z, on the outset; perhaps I wasn't quite sure what to make of the bottled cocktail, fearing that it might be a bit too "semi-homemade" for my taste. Or maybe I was put off by its vibrant orange hue that seemed to scream artificial coloring. Regardless, it was long overlooked. But I'm not above admitting when I'm wrong, and boy was I! If I could, I'd redact all negative thoughts toward the beverage, and to make up for my misjudgment, I'll be snapping up a bottle for my next beach picnic posthaste.
This bottle is modeled after a spritz, which is a popular Italian apéritif, traditionally consisting of white wine, seltzer water, and Campari, Aperol, or Cynar, all bitter orange apéritifs. It's meant to stimulate the appetite and act as internal air conditioning on a scorching Summer day. While this bottled version is slightly sweeter and less alcoholic than a standard spritz, it still retains much of the intrigue and bitterness associated with the beverage along with a trace of effervescence, making it an excellent stand-in and the first bottled cocktail that I can wholeheartedly get behind. While Mionetto's Il Spr!z is available in "individual" sizes of 200 and 375ml, I could easily down a whole 750ml bottle ($12) when poured over ice. It's that good.
I've always associated Georges Duboeuf — one of the largest wine producers in France — with Beaujolais, be it the young, fruity Beaujolais Nouveau that comes out every November, one of the more serious Crus, or the lighthearted Beaujolais-Villages. But after sipping on some of the brand's Mâcon-Villages, I'm now convinced that the brand makes some pretty solid Chardonnay, too.
I'll admit, I'd never have thought to buy Georges Duboeuf's 2011 Domaine Les Chenevières Mâcon-Villages: as someone who lacks patience as a virtue, the wine has far too many accented and unpronounceable descriptors for me to bother even pulling it off the shelf when, say, a California Chardonnay is also staring back at me.
But now that I've tried it, I absolutely would: from the minute the pour hit my glass, I knew this wine and I were destined to be friends. The glass had such a saturated straw hue, it was like Rapunzel spun gold! One sniff brought a bevy of aromatics — nuts and fruit like apples and pears, and floral notes, like rose petals — followed by a creamy mouthfeel, citrus midpalate, and a long, lingering finish.
I wasn't the only one: "This is maybe the best wine I've ever had. I want to drink it all day, every day," another taster told me. "It's the type of dry white I'm always looking for: dry with a very slight sweet aftertaste," she explained. Everyone was shocked to find out its sticker price was a mere $14, and we all agreed that despite having a mouthful of a name, this white Burgundy is well worth seeking out.