2008 Summer Wine Reviews


When the season turns steamy, pour some of these smooth and sassy summer sippers to calm down, cool off and chill out. Swizzle is on the case, with suggestions for several shimmering sparklers, a captivating quartet of cool white wines, an appealing Pinot Noir and a fresh bouquet of rosés. Most of these easy drinking wines fall in the $15 range and offer good value. They can serve as attractive aperitifs or complement the lighter fare often associated with summer dining. Although the wines aren't weighty, most can stand up to well-seasoned, spiced and hearty food as well as travel into fall " if there's any left in your cellar.

Listings on where to buy and where to drink the wines were current at press time.

2003 Marques de Gelida Brut Cava Reserva
Penedes, Spain
$12-$14 Retail

Don't let the bright gold and white glitzy packaging steer you away. What's inside the bottle is equally exciting: a dazzling, distinctive sparkling wine from Spain that is clean and refreshing on the palate. Estate bottled and aged more than three years prior to release, the wine was made from a proprietary blend that includes 15 percent Chardonnay. In the glass, tiny bubbles release a lively effervescence. Aromas of yeasty bread dough, white peach and honeysuckle are followed by tart apple, crisp citrus and mineral notes with a touch of sweetness on the palate. It's delicious as an aperitif or with oysters, fish, white meats, goat cheese and desserts. Where to buy it: Martin Wine Cellar Uptown, Metairie and Mandeville. Where to drink it: Calas Bistro and Wine Cellar, Café Atchafalaya, Martinique Bistro and Dakota in Covington.

2007 Vina Mar Sauvignon Blanc
Casablanca Valley, Chile
$14-$16 Retail

These 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc grapes thrived in the cool growing conditions of Chile's Casablanca Valley, less than 20 miles from the Pacific Ocean in the foothills of the Andes mountains. A very pleasant wine, the 2007 vintage was fermented in stainless steel. Fresh and delightfully crisp, this bottling offers intense bouquets of kiwi, ripe grapefruit, asparagus, and floral and flinty nuances. On the palate, expect more grapefruit, tangerine, some pineapple, green mango, lime and herbal notes plus a wonderful zingy acidity. It's fine as an aperitif and especially good paired with sushi, shellfish, ceviche, chicken, green salads, cold soups and spicy dishes. Where to buy it: Swirl, Cellars of River Ridge and the Wine Room in Mandeville. Where to drink it: Rio Mar and Muriel's Jackson Square.

2006 Bastianich Rosato
Venezia, Italy
$13-$15 Retail

A perfect wine for sipping on a warm summer day or starting off the evening's activities, this invigorating rosé is made from 100 percent Refosco, an obscure red grape found in northern Italy. Medium-bodied with an appealing complexity and a well balanced, mouth-watering acidity, the deeply colored wine offers delectable floral bouquets of rose petals and violets intermingled with cherry, strawberry, raspberry and orange peel aromas. In the mouth, fresh flavors of cranberry, tart cherry, white plums, rhubarb and dried herbs lead to a lovely, clean finish. It's a charming aperitif and a very versatile food wine to drink with antipasto, grilled salmon, and smoky, sweet or spicy dishes. Where to buy it: Partysist and Dorignac's. Where to drink it: Palace Café, NOLA, Commander's Palace, Emeril's and Emeril's Delmonico.

2007 Domaine de Saint Peyre Picpoul-de-Pinet
Coteaux du Languedoc, France
$13-$14 Retail

Wine enthusiasts discovered the Languedoc's big, juicy reds some time ago, but the vast region in the south of France below Bordeaux and just southwest of the Rhone is now beginning to yield the secrets of its startlingly good white wines. This wine is made from Picpoul Blanc grapes whose vineyards extend to the Mediterranean near the small village of Pinet. Fermented in stainless steel tanks, the wine is medium bodied with a smooth yet zesty acidity. Densely textured, it offers aromas of exotic fruit, honeysuckle and lime, which persist on the palate along with melonlike tropical fruit flavors and citrusy grapefruit and lemon. It's good with seafood such as oysters and grilled fish, bouillabaisse, full-flavored white meat dishes, cheeses and cured meats. Where to buy it: Swirl and Martin Wine Cellar Uptown. Where to drink it: Café Minh and Chateau du Lac Bistro.

2004 Papillon Estate Pinot Noir
Willamette Valley, Oregon
$26-$27 Retail

This may seem like a gimmick, as labels featuring animals are often more about marketing than good wine, but this bottle contains a beautiful expression of Pinot Noir fruit. The notable label features a small French dog — a Papillon — hence the name, with forehead coloration in the shape of a wine glass. (Incidentally, the dog's name is Daisy.) The wine was crafted from a blend of grapes originating from Dijon clones that grow on the winery's Cherry Hill estate. In the glass, this sumptuous and mellow wine emits aromas of red berry fruits with some earth notes followed by tastes of ripe cherry, strawberry, hints of chocolate and a dash of spice. It features supple, smooth tannins. Drink now and over the next two to four years. The most food-friendly wine of all, enjoy it with grilled or baked salmon, tuna, grilled meats, cheese, paté, game or fowl. Where to buy it: Partysist and W.I.N.O. Where to drink it: Pascal's Manale.

2006 S.C. Pannell Grenache Rosé
McLaren Vale, Australia
$12-$14 Retail

Another exquisite rosé from the extraordinarily talented and worldly winemaker Stephen Pannell, this wine illustrates his belief that Australia has the potential to produce excellent pure and natural wines without manipulation. Fully ripened fruit from 35-year-old vines was harvested from some of McLaren Vale's best vineyard sites and tank fermented and subjected to minimal aging in oak. Refreshing and full-bodied, the wine has enormous character and vibrancy. In the glass, aromas of stone fruits and fresh red berries with floral and mineral notes lead into raspberry, strawberry and peach flavors and a pleasing dry, tart finish. A great quaffing wine, drink it with fried chicken, grilled fish, salads, burgers and pizza. Where to buy it: Partysist and Dorignac's. Where to drink it: Louisiana Pizza Kitchen in the French Quarter, Pelican Club, Delachaise and Calypso Bar and Grill in Covington.

2006 Tohu Sauvignon Blanc
Marlborough, New Zealand
$16-$17 Retail

A flavorful wine made for summertime sipping, the grapes for Tohu's Sauvignon Blanc were harvested from Marlborough's Wairau and Awatere Valleys. On its way to becoming wine, the juice was cold-fermented in stainless steel tanks at optimum low temperatures to preserve the natural freshness and varietal character of the fruit. In the glass, this refreshing, medium-bodied wine — in the classic Marlborough style — offers fragrant aromas of flowers, citrus and passion fruit. On the palate, the wine is well balanced with lively flavors of lime and guava with a bracing acidity and lengthy finish. Drink it now. A fresh and vibrant wine to serve as an aperitif or with a variety of dishes such as white-fleshed fish, shellfish, asparagus, artichokes, goat cheese and Asian or Cajun cuisine. Where to buy it: Cellars of River Ridge, Acquistapace's Covington Supermarket and the Wine Room in Mandeville. Where to drink it: Louisiana Pizza Kitchen in the French Quarter

2006 Schug Chardonnay
Carneros, California
$22-$27 Retail

Winery founder Walter Schug, a native of Germany, learned how to deal with cool climate grapes such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir before ever setting foot in California. For this wine, 96 percent of the fruit was sourced from Carneros vineyards with more than 50 percent from estate-grown grapes. Aged in oak, the wine exhibits complexity with a restrained style that doesn't mask the elegant Carneros Chardonnay character. The nose shows tropical fruit notes with hints of vanilla and spice followed by flavors that suggest pear, citrus and baked apple on the palate with a balanced acidity and clean, crisp finish. It's well crafted and a terrific bottle for the price. A good food wine, enjoy it with seafood, cream soups, saucy dishes like shrimp Remoulade, chicken and pasta dishes. Where to buy it: Robert Fresh Market in Lakeview and Metairie, Dorignac's, Langenstein's in Metairie and Rouses in Covington.

NV Francois Montand Brut Sparkling Rosé
Loire Valley, France
$10-$13 Retail

When you want to drink pink and have some bubbly, too, think about this classy dry rosé sparkler from southern France. As the wine drinking world becomes better educated — and more experienced and adventuresome — people are rediscovering dry rosé wines, which have gained a renewed respectability and following in the marketplace. This nonvintage full-bodied sparkling rosé represents a remarkable value. Made in the traditional methode champenoise, the wine sports a lively effervescence with floral notes and crisp strawberry-scented fruit flavors, great balance and an off-dry finish. It'll be a party favorite and a great house sparkling wine. It also is a wonderful accompaniment to a full range of dishes including salmon, shellfish, chicken, grilled pork loin and egg dishes. Where to buy it: Partysist, Elio's Wine Warehouse, Dorignac's, Breaux Mart in River Ridge, the Wine Room in Mandeville and Habano's of Slidell. Where to drink it: Hostel, Vieux Carre, Chateau du Lac Bistro and La Provence in Lacombe.

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