Celebrate the nation’s birthday and pop the cork on a long weekend of fun, with crisp sparkling wines, refreshing whites, ravishing roses, and spicy reds. Time for barbecues, picnics, pools, fireworks displays, and kicking back, all with your favorite glass of wine in hand! Toss the sparkling, white, and rose wines in the cooler, even some reds can benefit from a brief chill to bring out their fruit flavors in the heat. Here are a few of my under $20 favorites to please a crowd or enjoy in a more intimate setting.
Nothing starts a party or keeps it going like sparkling wine. Crémants are made throughout France, using the same traditional method used for crafting fine champagne. They are dry, have fine bubbles, and often yeasty, toasty flavors from the bottle aging, and are great values. A good example is the 2011 Antech "Cuvée Eugenie" Crémant de Limoux. It is very refreshing, made of 50% Chardonnay, 40% Chenin Blanc, and 10% Mauzac, from the south of France. Fresh, balanced and elegant, with aromas of white flowers and citrus, it sells for $13.99 at K & L Wines.
White wines can cover the spectrum, from dry and crisp to rich and round. The 2012 Spellbound California Chardonnay is a good food wine, with juicy flavors of citrus, and tropical fruit, a light touch of oak and butter, with a creamy texture but all in balance, it’s light lushness is perfect with grilled shrimp, all for $11.99 at K & L Wines. From Italy’s northeastern Friuli region, try two whites from Ermacora, both aromatic, with great concentration, depth of flavor, and a long finish. These wines are incredible for the price, at $15.99 and available at K & L Wines, the 2012 Ermacora Friulano Colli Orientali del Friuli and the 2012 Ermacora Pinot Bianco Colli Orientali del Friuli are aromatic and full-bodied, and pack a wow factor. The Friulano is a bit more lush with ripe pear and apple flavors and a long, almond-tinged finish. The Pinot Bianco is more dynamic, with white flowers and citrus, very delicious!
Rosé is the definition of summer chill. The 2013 Château de Peyrassol “Commanderie” Côtes de Provence Rosé is a classic Provence Rosé, a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Cinsault, a pale watermelon pink, crisp, dry, and elegant, with peach and nectarine fruit, and a light minerality, at $19.99. You can practically picture yourself with a glass in hand, lunching along the beach, it’s vacation in a bottle.
Red wines are perfect with grilled and barbecued meats. The 2011 Bodegas Aragonesas Coto de Hayas Garnacha Centaria, is plush, with bold flavors of blackberry jam, kirsch, dark chocolate and toast, accented by smoke and licorice. This wine, made from old vine Garnacha, is designated a “Smart Buy” by Wine Spectator, earning 91 points, and is available at the Wine House for $11.99. Zinfandel, such as the 2012 Seghesio Sonoma County Zinfandel ($19,99 at Costco), and GSM blends (Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre) are also excellent with barbecue, while Cabernet Sauvignon is a perfect partner for steak.
Fire up the grill, whether seafood, chicken, or red meats, pack the cooler with your favorite summer wines, ignite good times and launch cool summer fun, maybe with a side of patriotic fireworks, and declare your independence with a splash.