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Those of us that write about wine tend to be an opinionated and predictable bunch.  About this time every year, wine writers flood the wine interwebs and print pages with lists of rosés that consumers should be drinking this summer.  

‘Ten rosés you can’t live without this summer.’ ‘The 25 best rosés under $25.’ ‘Why rosé wines are hotter than ever’ (even hotter than when the author wrote about them last summer).  And, loads of others (to which I will add to next week).

These articles continue to pigeonhole rosés as summer-only wines in the same way the flood of ‘Drink These Champagnes for New Years Eve’ articles have framed sparkling wine/Champagne as special occasion wines.  

While I do appreciate crisp, refreshing rosés to pair with the heat and intense humidity of Virginia summers, there is a place for more substantial wines at your next grill out.

Consider wines made from these red varieties to pair with burgers, dogs, brats and whatever else you’re grilling or ‘smokin this summer.

The low tannin, high acid gamays from Beaujolais (slightly chilled) make for an enjoyable deck sipper or great pairing for lighter grilled meats or even fish.  Look to the village of Fleurie for elegant, feminine wines and to Beaujolais-Village for delicious economical wines.

My favorite wine from Fleurie is Clos de la Roilette.  Made from 30-40 year-old gamay vines farmed by the Coudert family, this wine is beautiful: lots of acid, fragrant with notes of rose petal, cherry and stone (Imported by Louis-Dressner, available in finer wine shops. Find at Snooth).    

Roilette Fleurie

One of my favorite values from the region, at about $10/bottle, is the Louis-Jadot Beaujolais-Village (distributed by Kobrand, widely available in grocery stores and large wine shops).

For a heavier Beaujolais to pair with burgers, one can not go wrong with any of the wines from Beaujolais royalty Jean Foillard.  Made from gamay vines 10 to 90 years old, Foillard’s 2014 ‘Côte du Py’ from the village of Morgon is one of my favorite wines from the entire region and perfect for any time of the year.  (Find Foillard’s wines via Snooth.)



Cabernet Franc
Cabernet Franc wines are some of my favorite red wines.  With origins in France, Cabernet Franc is now grown all over the world.  Along with Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc is the parent of the global workhorse grape Cabernet Sauvignon.  My favorite single-varietal Cab Francs are from France’s Loire Valley and my home state of Virginia.  I visited the Loire last May and was most impressed with the Cab Francs from the Saumur-Champigny area.  Like Beaujolais wines, these lighter, earthier Cab Francs from Saumur-Champigny (also from Chinon and across the Loire really) are great paired with burgers or whole grilled fish like trout (yes, fish!).  

My home state of Virginia offers an impressive range of styles from light and earthy to bold and fruit forward.  In Virginia, winemakers Luca Paschina of Barboursville Vineyards and Stephen Barnard at Keswick Vineyards (both in the Monticello AVA) make some of the most notable Cab Francs in the Old Dominion.  Barnard’s 2014 Cabernet Franc Estate Reserve took top honors at the Virginia Governor’s Cup this year.  Since the 2014 Estate Reserve is hard to come by after winning the Cup, look for the 2013 Signature Series Cab Franc for a summer splurge to pair with a big ribeye on the grill (real charcoal of course).



For more robust Cab Francs, look to California.  The historic Lodi region — situated 100 miles east of San Francisco, about 40 miles south of Sacramento and just west of the Sierra Nevada mountain range — may be best known for Zinfandel but other varieties like Viognier, Albarino, and Cabernet Franc are thriving in this oft-underrated area.  Look for the 2011 Cabernet Franc from McCay Cellars. The dark cherry and spice notes with an earthy finish make this a great pairing with ribs on the grill.


Tempranillo (and Garnacha too!)
Look to Rioja — widely considered Spain’s preeminent wine region — for serious yet affordable wines made from Tempranillo.  The smoky, leathery notes with juicy berry undertones typical of Spain’s noble grape pair perfectly with smoked meats.  Muga, López de Heredia, Marqués de Riscal, and La Rioja Alta are among my favorite producers.

La Rioja Alta’s Gran Reserva 904 (~ 90% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano) or the Viña Ardanza (~80% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha) pair beautifully with cherry mint sauce glazed grilled lamb. (Find La Rioja Alta wines in your area via Snooth)


For a serious value Tempranillo reach for the yellow-labeled Campo Viejo; widely available at many bottle shops and grocery stores.  Expressive, delicious and a great value at just $10.


Pinot Noir
One can not go wrong with a luscious, juicy Pinot to pair with salmon, chicken or even a burger on a summer evening with friends. When I found wine in 2006, one of my first wine loves was Oregon Pinot Noir.   Before our family expansion in 2011, my wife and I visited the Willamette Valley about once a year to catch up with old friends and explore the ever growing region.  Though we haven’t visited since 2012 (need to change that!), this is still our favorite U.S. region for Pinot and sipping a glass of Matello, Adelsheim, Bergström, Brickhouse or Eyrie brings back fond memories from prior visits.

There are no shortage of delicious Oregon Pinots to choose from. One of my favorite producers for consistent, tasty good value is Willamette Valley Vineyards.  Established in 1989, Willamette Valley Vineyards is a sustainable operation that farms nearly 500 acres of vines in the region and produces a broad range of Pinots from small-production single-vineyard bottlings that are intense and complex to more accessible and widely available offerings.  While I love their vineyard designates like the Bernau Block Pinot, the Whole Cluster Pinot delivers delicious value at just $22/bottle (this wine is widely available, can be found in bottle shops and grocery markets throughout the U.S.).    

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Look to New Zealand for earthy, spicy, and elegant Pinots. New Zealand is one of the coolest maritime wine regions in the world and considered by many a bridge between old and new world wine styles. Pinot, the most widely planted red grape variety in New Zealand, is thriving in the Central Otago region.  

One of my favorites is a recent new-to-me producer, Loveblock, founded by Erica and Kim Crawford, formerly of the iconic New Zealand producer Kim Crawford (producer of the ubiquitous New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc).  Their 2012 Loveblock Pinot is fresh and expressive, with notes of blueberry, pine straw and baking spice.  Serve slightly chilled with chicken or salmon.  (Find Loveblock wines via Snooth.)

Wishing everyone a wonderful summer!   I’ll be back next week with the ten rosés I poured at the annual BBQ and Rosé event at Great Bottles Wine Shop two weeks ago.  
Drink what you like, when you.