As spring goes south and swerves ever so swiftly into summer, it's time to lighten up a bit. And I don't mean just clothing and heavy dishes. Now is the time to splash sassy Sauvignon Blancs in your glass and swirl seasonal sippers like Pinot Grigio, Gruner Veltliner, Riesling and pretty pink wine drinks, or to enjoy enchanting, effervescent sparklers and perfect-with-everything Pinot Noirs.
Following are selections to take you through the stifling summer. You're primed to stay cool and refreshed while you socialize, have a light dinner, party al fresco, engage in the season's recreational activities or just spend time relaxing with a book or a favorite movie.
Try the ones that appeal to you, or better yet, taste them all and discover a few new favorites. As always, listings on where to buy and drink wines were current at press time. Enjoy!
2006 Haras di Pirque Estate Sauvignon Blanc
Maipo Valley, Chile
The lightness and freshness of good Sauvignon Blanc earn honors as one of summerÕs most perfect seasonal wines. This wine, from the unique Haras di Pirque estate in ChileÕs Maipo Valley, is not just a great example but value priced. The wineryÕs harvesting and vinification methods focus on bringing in fruit with optimum acidity and flavor ripeness. Cold fermented in stainless steel tanks, the wine retains its clean, crispness and expressive varietal character in the bottle. Once in the glass, expect aromas of citrus fruit, orange peel and minerals. On the palate, the wine is nicely balanced with tastes of green apples and herbs and a satisfying finish. Good with Asian and Cajun cuisine, shellfish and fin fish, soft cheeses and salads. Where to buy it: Cork & Bottle, Bacchanal and Calas Wine Cellar. Where to drink it: Calas Bistro.
Avin&151; Brut Reserva Cava, Non-Vintage
The Nadal name may be associated with one of the worldÕs top tennis stars Ñ as in Rafael Ñ but there are more Spaniards named Nadal that can lay claim to celebrity. The Esteve Nadal family has been producing wine for more than 50 years in the Penedes region of Barcelona. The original vineyards were planted on the estate to supply the Nadals and their friends with sparkling wines. However, rave reviews by word of mouth created demand for the Cava and the estate has since expanded to other varietals. Aged in the cellar for a minimum of 18 months, the Aviny&151; Cava Brut has a fresh and engaging effervescence with abundant fruit on the nose and flavors of pear, peach and apple with a crisp acidity on the finish. Good with everything from tapas to grilled meats and fish. Where to buy it: HopperÕs Wines and Spirits and Cork & Bottle. Where to drink it: Cuvee.
2005 Beringer Knights Valley Alluvium Blanc
Napa Valley, California
Established in 1876, Beringer Estate may be best known for intensely flavored red wines. However, this Conundrum-like bottling is sure to tickle tastersÕ palates with its easy-drinking verve while proving painless on the pocketbook with its bargain pricing. The refreshing white sipper, named for Knights ValleyÕs alluvial soils, is a blend of 51 percent Sauvignon Blanc, 39 percent Semillon, 7 percent Chardonnay and 2 percent Viognier. Each component added a strategic element to the whole: crisp acidity from the Sauvignon Blanc, a touch of sweetness from the Semillon, structure and lushness from the Chardonnay and honeysuckle aromas from the Viognier. In the glass, apricot and citrus join the floral bouquet followed by melon, fig, toast and honey notes on the palate. Where to buy it: DorignacÕs, some Sav-A-Centers, RouseÕs in Metairie and Slidell, SamÕs Wholesale Club, Vintages in Kenner, Fresh Market in Mandeville and The Wine Market in Slidell.
2005 Domaine des Coccinelles Ros
Cotes du Rhone, France
Organically grown grapes and often, the next step Ñ biodynamic farming Ñ are literally gaining ground around the globe as producers follow sustainable agricultural techniques. At Domaine des Coccinelles, the vineyards have been managed for generations by a family dedicated to ecological practices. That means no artificial pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers and other environmentally conscious methods are employed to promote healthy vineyards. This wine was blended from 70 percent Grenache, 20 percent Syrah and 10 percent Cinsault sourced from the DomaineÕs vineyards in the southern Rhone. Attractive floral fragrances and red berry bouquets lead into bright raspberry and cherry flavors, balanced acidity and a clean finish. Great as an aperitif or with a wide variety of cuisines, especially Asian and other spicy food. Where to buy it: DorignacÕs and Whole Foods Markets.
2004 Argyle Pinot Noir
Willamette Valley, Oregon
Oregon Pinot Noirs have never been hotter than they are right now as Pinot Noir worship continues to drive devoteesÕ decisions on purchases. The Willamette Valley is especially suited for this cool-climate grape with its Pacific northwest environs and long, sunny summer days to encourage ripening. Made from 100 percent Pinot Noir, the wine exudes intense aromas of ripe raspberry and black cherry with rose petal, lilac and earth notes. On the palate, expect more black cherry fruit and jammy raspberry flavors joined by dark chocolate and spice in a velvety texture with an even tannin structure. Enjoy the most food-friendly red wine with tuna, salmon, chicken, pork and red meat. Where to buy it: Whole Food Markets, DorignacÕs, some Sav-A-Centers and some RouseÕs. Where to drink it: VizardÕs on the Avenue, Fire!, MandinaÕs, Sopor, Pelican Club, Pascal ManaleÕs, Ardoise, Sake Caf II, Table One, MurielÕs, Pat OÕBrienÕs, Melius and Keith YoungÕs Steak House in Madisonville.
2005 Weingut Stadt Krems Gruner Veltliner Weinzierlberg
One of AustriaÕs Ñ and EuropeÕs Ñ oldest estates, Stadt Krems has been producing wine for nearly six centuries. The city-owned winery is located within the town of Krems in the Kremstal wine region in Lower Austria. Made from 100 percent Gruner Veltliner grapes sourced from the Weinzierlberg vineyards, the bottle is sealed with a reusable Vino-Lok glass closure topped with a metal cap. On the nose, look for fresh fragrant green apple aromas, minerals, white pepper and citrus notes. On the palate, tart berries and spice mingle with ripe peach, other stone fruit flavors and a crisp veggie character. Drink now and over the next five years. Good with a wide variety of foods from salads to seafood to white meats and light cheeses. Where to buy it: Martin Wine Cellars Uptown and Metairie. Where to drink it: Bayona, NOLA, Cochon, EmerilÕs and Delachaise.
2005 Folie Deux Menage Trois Ros
Menage trois is proof that being a bit risqu can be inviting. The wine has more to offer than its somewhat racy name. But one would have to agree that a wine that promotes itself as putting Òthree attractive, single young grapes in one exquisite bottle,Ó with references to Òsuggestive pinkness and luscious bodyÓ as well as Ònaked fruit,Ó is clearly having fun with the wineÕs image and the publicÕs perception. A blend of Merlot, Syrah and Gewurtztraminer, this amusing little ros provides bouquets of flowers, red berries and lychee nuts on the nose. In the mouth, strawberry and raspberry flavors play on the palate with hints of exotic spice and a wonderfully crisp acidity in a silky finish. ItÕs delicious with a wide variety of cuisine, including grilled meats and sausages, seafood and fowl. Where to buy it: Whole Foods Markets, DorignacÕs, Cost Plus World Market, Breaux Mart on Severn, RouseÕs on Veterans Memorial Boulevard, some Sav-A-Centers and Winn-Dixies and Cellars of River Ridge. Where to drink it: Jacque-ImoÕs Caf and ChopÕs Bistro.
2005 Monchhof Estate Riesling
The Monchhof (MonkÕs House or MonkÕs Court) Estate dates back to 1177 when monks were active winegrowers in the area. The present estate building and underground cellars were completed by 1509, with the monksÕ continuing their work at the winery until the estate was purchased by the Eymael family in 1804. For more than 200 years, the family has carried on the monksÕ winemaking tradition. This classic German Riesling from the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region exhibits aromas of apricot and lemon with mineral notes. In the mouth, the off-dry flavor profile suggests apple, ripe peach and citrus flavors with a bright acidity. Good with many different foods, including foie gras, cream soups, seafood, spicy dishes and many desserts. Where to buy it: The Wine Seller, Bacchanal, Whole Foods Markets, Martin Wine Cellars Uptown and Metairie, some Sav-A-Centers, The Wine Market in Slidell and RouseÕs in Mandeville and Slidell. Where to drink it: Calas Bistro and Wine Cellar, NOLA, VizardÕs on the Avenue, Bourbon House, Caf Marigny, VincentÕs Italian Cuisine, La Thai Cuisine, SaraÕs, Caf Rani, Sweet Fire & Ice, PampyÕs, BenjaminÕs Bistro, Mojo Lounge and Keith YoungÕs Steak House in Madisonville.
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