A shopping list for wines perfect for summer chilling and grilling
For grillin' and chillin', look for wines low in alcohol and tannin (to help hydration and give center stage to food flavors); high in fruit and acidity (to balance spice and refresh the palate). And yes, all wines below, even reds, are chillable.
Brut Rosé, Piper Sonoma (Sonoma County, California): A love match of Pinot Noir and bubbles. Pretty strawberry aroma, not bone-dry fruit flavor with a pleasing firmness and silky effervescence. The hint of tannin is equal to antipasti such as salami and cheeses and embraces grilled salmon (I season mine with soy sauce, pepper, garlic and lime). Scrubbing bubbles refresh the palate from richer meats and sauces. Flavors enrich into Day Two. What could be better than cold barbecue and bubbly for breakfast? Ask your wine merchant, about $22.
"Dry" riesling, Wollersheim Winery (Wisconsin): Now that we've learned rosé needn't be sweet, it's time to accept the same about riesling. Labeled "Dry," Wollersheim's rendition recalls a fresh-picked green apple, complete with mouthwatering acidity. With riesling's typically low alcohol and gentle texture, make this your session wine throughout daytime and evening festivities.
For added hydration, add soda water and ice for a classic Spritzer, mint garnish and straw optional. The grapes are grown in Washington State to Wollersheim's specifications, then vinified in Prairie du Sac, the winery and grounds making a fun day-trip (on reopening) from Chicagoland. Riesling rivals rosé in food-friendliness, too. Its delicate sweetness enhances sweeter seafood and delicately sweet sauces while balancing spice (such as Spicy Crab Dip, Shrimp with Mango Salsa, sushi, etc.). Acidity washes the palate after finger-licking good barbecue pork ribs, sausages and duck. For the most relaxed picnic fare, the wine acts as a slice of apple with cheese. One caveat: in every bottle I've purchased, the twist-off is defective, requiring a sharp blade to cut through the capsule. It hasn't stopped me from going back for more. Available in select groceries and wine chains, about $12.
For more wine cocktails, sign up for the free digital recipe book "Fresh & Delicious, California Wine Cocktails" at mailchi.mp/discovercaliforniawines/summer-cocktails.
"Tenuta Perano," Chianti Classico DOCG, Frescobaldi, 2016 (Tuscany, Italy): Sometimes a wine is just so darn good, the bottle is empty before I've taken a note. That's this wine. I remember pleasing firmness, cherry, black licorice, brown spice and dried herb flavors, outlined with acidity. I remember it was delicious with every nosh I pulled from the fridge. The producer's technical sheet discusses hand harvesting, stainless steel fermentation, with gentle rest in oak to express forest floor accents. For a "what grows together, goes together" pairing, Tuscany is as famous for steak as Chicago, so research Bistecca alla Fiorentina or simply season your favorite cut with salt and pepper, olive oil and herbs. I can almost smell the sizzle now! I'll fire the grill; you bring the wine. Available in wine shops and chains, about $25.
"Centenario" Lambrusco DOC Amabile, Cleto Chiarli (Emilia-Romagna, Italy): Initial impression: Yum! Deep ruby in color with teasing mousse -- more a tickle than effervescence -- with flavors like a handful of dried cranberries, raisins and chocolate pieces. At 48 grams per liter sugar, the wine is sweet, but the Grasparossa variety, (Lambrusco sports 60 varieties! Who knew?), balances sweetness with firm acidity. Dangerously delicious for a snack attack (including the handful above), to pair with cold and hot meats and rich poultry, even spicy barbecue and not-too-sweet desserts. Note: Chiarli offers a range of delicious Lambrusco, including an organically grown option; Amabile is the sweetest. At wine shops and specialty grocers, about $13.
• Mary Ross is an Advanced Sommelier (Court of Master Sommeliers), a Certified Wine Educator (Society of Wine Educators) and recipient of the Wine Spectator's "Grand Award of Excellence." Write to her at email@example.com.
Ross' choiceWine: Chardonnay
Region: Russian River Valley, Sonoma County
Vintage: 2017 currently; 2018 arriving in August
Availability: Major wine and spirits outlets, specialty grocers, about $35
Distributed by: Southern Glazer's IL, Bolingbrook
Tasting Notes: Like our city, Sonoma suffered its own "second" complex, but both are so last century. Tom and Sally Jordan helped change all that. In 1972, they chose Alexander Valley for their château, vineyard and winery, enhancing Sonoma County's rustic reputation with sophistication and the region's everyday drinking wines with those of elegance, complexity and price tags to support fine winemaking. Cabernet was first, inspired by Bordeaux and guided by legendary André Tchelistcheff. Next, Jordan's vision shifted to Burgundy and the translation of its grape -- Chardonnay -- to America's soil and climate. The 2018 is luscious, round and inviting, the epitome of California Chardonnay, with golden apple and pear flavor accented by exotic spices, with balanced acidity enough to add excitement to a range of dishes from my fridge: garlic roasted chicken, pears and Vermont Cheddar, salad of sun-dried tomatoes and apples, and grilled sausages. From Jordan's website and "Wine Country Table" (available to wine club members): Wild Mushroom Bisque, Dungeness crab and grilled pork. Before you re-up to the ABC Club (Anything but Chardonnay), taste this thrilling wine.