Tag Archives: summer

Tasting Room: Wines that taste great from a plastic cup (or great summer wines!)

For this month’s Tasting Room, we’ve gone with the them of “Wines that Taste Good in a Plastic Cup.” Otherwise known as “Perfect Summer Wines.” But the plastic cup thing is more catchy. Why do we call it this? Well, it’s summer – we have BBQs and picnics with big groups of people; you sip wine in a backyard, at a beach or by a pool. Sometimes on a boat! And these types of gatherings happen without glassware, hence our plastic cup title.

Now, I love my wines in a nice, tulip-shaped glass, but when that is not possible, I do have a few requirements for a wine I’m going to throw in a plastic cup. The first three things I look for: big aromatics, juicy fruit and refreshing acidity. Remember, the reason wines are drunk from pretty tulip shaped glasses is because that shape concentrates the aromas to your nose. A plastic cup, without that shape, dissipates those aromas. But wines that are intense and aromatic can overcome this obstacle. And it’s probably dang hot outside so you need something juicy with nice, crisp acidity. The last requirement for my wine would be a reasonable price! No need to go deep into those pockets when your kid may come running by and spill it out of that cup anyway!

For whites, Torrontes and Sauvignon Blanc are great aromatic wines, perfect for warm weather and those plastic cups. A number of Pinot Gris/Grigios also come up in the aromatic list, as well as Italian and Spanish varieties.

One of our favorite white is the Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes – this is a value bottle that is a great example of the grape. Torrontes is unique to Argentina. We love it because it has the aromatics of a grape like Viognier but the crisp acidity of Sauvignon Blanc. It gives you lots of stone fruits – peach, pear, even apple, with a perfumed floral backbone. It’s just pretty in the nose. Then on the palate, you get this zippy acidity that is so refreshing next to the fruity, floral flavors. A perfect combination.

And of course, Rose… you can’t think of summer without thinking of Rose! To be honest, there are not many Roses I don’t like. I do shy away from sweet rose for the most part, unless I have a super spicy dish with me, but  A current favorite is definitely the Mulderbosch from South Africa. It’s a bit different than many rose wines as it is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon – that’s a fuller bodied, thicker-skinned variety than many roses. But we love this part of it – it’s bold enough to match up to some spicy summer foods and yet crisp enough to get you through the heat! And… perfect in a plastic cup.

Finally, red wine lovers have an excellent line up for their glass – I mean, cup. From good California Zinfandel to juicy Cotes-du-Rhone to the wine we feature today – the Yalumba Organic Shiraz – reds have plenty to offer at a picnic or BBQ.

The Yalumba Organic Shiraz is a juicy and spicy wine, with lots of fruit and a great freshness to it to make it perfect for summer and your plastic cup. At a crazy good deal, it’s hard NOT to grab a few cases for summer.

If you’re like me, you may feel bad about the environmental impact of plastic, or you may just love stemware. If you don’t want to use real wine glasses but also don’t want plastic, invest in some stemless wine glasses. I love my Riedel O’s and we use those almost everywhere. If Riedel isn’t in the budget, there are now biodegradable cups being made out there, which should help you feel better about using disposables when your guest count is large.

Happy Summer sipping!
Gwendolyn & Michelle

Learning to drink pink

It was perhaps the wettest June on record in the Pacific Northwest. Well thank goodness it was a record, because if this was normal I'd be moving back to California in a heartbeat. But summer did finally decide to show up and we even had a heatwave!

One of the reasons I missed this hot weather was because of my rose. I look forward to rose wine every summer, because while it tastes good anytime of the year, I find it very seasonal and it is one of my quintessential summer wines. And when temperatures are in the 80s it's all I want to sip – somehow it is not as appealing when it's 50 degrees and raining.

Consumers have come around for the most part in accepting pink wine as a quality beverage. Though rose has been made for decades – centuries actually – most Americans associate it with the sweet blush White Zinfandels that became so popular in the 1980s. Well, DRY rose is back on people's table. Thank goodness! And as we enter another high-temperature weekend, here are some fun rose facts – dry vs. sweet.

Dry Rose:
The traditional rosé method (for dry rose), saignée, creates a pink wine by pressing red grapes and allowing the juice only a brief period of contact the skins, retaining a bit of color, but lacking the heavy influence of tannins.

France is the only country to have a region whose production is restricted to rosé. One of the oldest appellations in France, Tavel is a pink only Appellation Controllée.

Dry rose is crisp and refreshing like a white wine, but with a touch of red characteristics in fruit flavor and texture.

Sweet Rose:
White Zinfandel is made with Zinfandel grapes, but with a faster process and added sugar. It's almost always sweet.

White Zinfandel hit its peak in the 1980s. Sutter Home White Zinfandel production went from 25,000 cases in 1981 to 2.9 million cases in 1989.

In 1991, White Zinfandel accounted for 34% of wine sales nationally. Today, it still accounts for 10% of wine sales in the U.S.

  

 

This summer, you should drink more…. Riesling!

Most wine aficionados reach for a bottle of Riesling when temperatures rise (and many other times for that matter), and when I ask the favorite grape for summer, those who know the grape happily respond – Riesling. Unfortunately, that is only the answer from those familiar with the variety. Poor grape. It's so often misunderstood!

Riesling can conjure up images of sickly sweet, low quality wine, yet Riesling is a noble grape variety and has been making wine for centuries. It's one of the only white wine varieties that can make extremely age worthy wines, as well as some of the most highly sought after sweet wines. Perhaps that's why sweet and Riesling are too often deemed a pair. But what many don't realize is that most Rieslings are actually dry.

Riesling has high aromatics and high acidity – two perfect attributes for summer drinking, as well as for food pairing.
Which wines should you try that will help introduce you to the delicious world of Rieslings? Here are some suggestions.

You like dry, mineral-driven wines, like New Zealand or Chile Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio
Try Australian Rieslings – these wines display intense aromatics of lime, mineral notes and stone fruit. Very crisp, very dry. We love the Pewsey Vale (on sale for $9.99 right now at WineShopper) as it is a great value that displays all these characteristics. Look for the excellent Riesling examples from Clare Valley and Eden Valley.

You like fruity white wines and blends like Conundrum or Evolution
Try Washington State Rieslings. These wines have the same steely acidity, but with a bit rounder, riper fruit and occasionally a touch of residual sugar, though usually with a very tangy finish. We love the Eroica (even served it at my wedding!) and the Pacific Rim Wallula Vineyard (made with biodynamnic farming practices). Eroica has a bit more residual sugar, while the Pacific Rim has a touch of petrol (this is a GOOD thing) in the nose that makes it vibrant and a bit tangy. As I taste more Rieslings from the Pacific Northwest, I learn how perfect the region is for this grape. And Washignton State – as well as Oregon – are making some stellar Riesling.

You like sweet wine
One of the reason's Riesling is so good as a sweet wine is because of its excellent acidity. German Rieslings are probably the way to go on the sweet side, although Austria and Alsace are other excellent regions. Look for terms like Spatlese and Auslese on the label, which indicates a bit more residual sugar (usually). Maximin Grunhauser and JJ Prum are fantastic producers. There are plenty others though, so do some research.

For more, read Alma's take on reading a Riesling label! It's definitely helpful.

So this summer, try a Riesling. It's a diverse grape and there are sure to be some that fit your style!
And please do share your favorites.

Best way to quickly chill a bottle of wine


In the heat of summer (extreme heat if you’re in the NW), we often find ourselves wanting a cold glass of wine, but realizing we lacked the foresight to have put one in the fridge earlier that day. In which case we need some fast measures to chill that bottle. Here are some of my favorite ways to do that.

Ice bucket & water – The most effective method is to fill a bucket with ice and some water and submerge your bottle in it for 10 – 20 minutes. Ice won’t cut it – you must add water to make it work and work faster.

Frozen bottle – You may be lacking ice or bucket or both. For these cases, keep an empty wine bottle in the freezer and pour the new wine into that (or at least enough for a couple of glasses). It won’t be ice cold, but it will cool down in about 10 minutes.

Ice Jacket – Invest in an ice jacket or two. Keep them in the freezer and when your need to chill that bottle down, slip it on the bottle AND put the bottle in the freezer (with jacket on) for about 10 minutes.

Ice cubes – It may seem wrong, but remember that wine is mostly water, so if you’re not digging deep into the cellar, throw an ice cube or two into that glass to cool it down. Think of it this way – If it’s not a wine you can put an ice cube in, it’s worth the wait to cool down…