Humid summer days usually call for ultra-cooling beverages such as iced tea and lemonade, unless you're gourmet picnicking or lunching with acquaintances in some charming setting complete with frosty air-conditioning. For those special days, enjoy a light-bodied, slightly chilled glass of wine. In fact, think pink for summer!
A number of lively and refreshing rosé wines are available for summer quaffing as well as many delicious lighter-style white wines. And if you pine for red wine, Pinot Noir with its fresh forward fruit character from California or Oregon or from Burgundy's Cote de Beaune is a perfect summer thirst quencher, especially with just a bit of chilling to take the warm edges off.
Then there are those summer nights. Sailing on the lake, dining out, visiting friends, checking out the nightlife -- activities that have all the makings of great fun, especially when enjoyed while sipping some of the following delightful summer wines. Here is a sampling of wines for this summer: 2002 Brancott Estate 'B' Sauvignon Blanc
Marlborough, New Zealand $25-$27 At the northeastern tip of New Zealand's south island, Marlborough, with its cool climate, plentiful sunshine, dry summers and long cool nights to encourage slow ripening, produces some of the most distinctive Sauvignon Blanc in the world. Careful pruning and vineyard management promotes optimum ripeness and flavor concentration. The wine was cold fermented in tanks, with 10 percent barrel fermented in new and 1-year-old French oak. The bouquet reveals stone fruit, some toast and spice and hints of tropical fruits, followed by vibrant, rich fruit flavors, a mineral, flinty note, with spicy vanilla components and a fine balance of fresh, crisp acidity. Made to drink now, but will cellar well for the next four years. Very food-friendly. Delicious with delicate fish, raw oysters and other shellfish, and Asian cuisine. Available at Sidney's Wine Cellar in the French Quarter.
2002 Tenuta Mormoraia Vernaccia di San Gimagnano
Toscana, Italy $13-$16 From the captivating hill town of San Gimagnano, the ancient Vernaccia vine has survived the centuries to produce this straw-colored, historic wine. In fact, following the enactment of the 'Denominazione di Origine Controllata' (DOC) laws of 1963 to enact standards in Italy's wine regions, Vernaccia di San Gimagnano was the first wine to receive DOC status. Just an hour's drive southwest of Florence, San Gimagnano, with its tall medieval towers, overlooks the twisting Tuscan hillsides striped with vineyards. Hand-harvested, the grapes are crushed by a pneumatic press, and the juice ferments in controlled-temperature stainless steel tanks. Floral scented with citrus notes. On the palate the wine is lemony with an almond aftertaste. Good with pasta dishes, grilled chicken and seafood. Available at The Wine Seller, Cork & Bottle, Sidney's Wine Cellar, Bacchanal, Cellars of River Ridge and Wine Down in Mandeville.
2003 Commanderie de Peyrassol
Cotes de Provence, France $14-$18 Pretty in pale pink, this ros&233; hails from France's posh and popular southeastern corner just north of St. Tropez. The estate, located in the heart of Provence near routes traveled by the Crusaders in the early Middle Ages, was founded by the Knights of Templar who dedicated themselves to protecting the travelers on their way to the Holy Land -- and to making wine. Their first recorded harvest was in 1256. Now owned by the Rigord family, the estate produces wines that are faithful expressions of the terroir. Made from a blend of Syrah, Cinsault, and Mouvedre, the wine is fermented at controlled temperatures to capture the luscious fruit flavors. Lively and fresh on the palate, the wine offers tangerine and strawberry notes and a dry mineralilty on the finish. Good with fish, roasted vegetables and garlicy pastas. Available at both Martin Wine Cellar locations, Cellars of River Ridge and Acquistapace's Covington Super Market.
2001 Van Duzer Pinot Noir
Willamette Valley, Oregon $15-$24 Sporting a stunning Art Nouveau label, the wine inside the bottle does not disappoint. Sourced from estate vineyards, the grapes for this wine originated as traditional Burgundian clones. After hand-harvesting, grape clusters were cold macerated to develop bright color and soft tannins. Following fermentation, the wine spent 10 months in half-new and half-neutral oak barrels. In the glass, bright fruit aromas of berries, cherries and a hint of mushroom accented by exotic spices and violets emerge. On the palate, flavors of fresh black cherries balanced by sweet red cherry, spice and blackberry notes unfold. The fresh berry fruit, well-integrated tannins continue to a long. Lingering finish. Delicious with grilled tuna or salmon, roast lamb or chicken. Found at Whole Foods Market (Esplanade Avenue only), Sidney's Wine Cellar, Dorignac's and Cellars of River Ridge.
2003 Evans & Tate Gnangara Unwooded Chardonnay
Western Australia $10-$16 Located in the Swan Valley, just north of Perth, Evans & Tate has a long history of producing fine wines. Unlike most California Chardonnays, this Aussie wine saw no wood during fermentation or aging, so much of the fresh fruit aromas and flavors are revealed. A very contemporary style, the wine is rich and ripe, showing great concentration, balanced acidity, and some complexity. Bright fruit aromas of guava, lime and melon fuse into elegant and intense flavors. Peaches and mangoes come to mind offset by a clean, fresh grapefruit character. Good with Asian cuisine, seafood and poultry dishes. Can be purchased at Cork & Bottle, Sidney's Wine Cellar, Cellars of River Ridge, Acquistapace's Covington Super Market, Habano's of Slidell and Wine Down in Mandeville.
2001 Chateau d'Orschwihr Riesling Bollenberg
Alsace $14-$16 Often underrated, Alsace has been making wines of amazing character for more than a thousand years. The historic Chateau dates back to 1049 when Pope Leon IX stayed there during the consecration of a church in a nearby town. During the 13th century, the estate became the property of the Habsburgs, and consequently was owned by the bishopric of Strasburg and local nobility before being purchased by the family of the present owners in 1854. Sourced from grapes cultivated in rich limestone soil, the wine is fermented in large oak barrels. The process retains the wine's freshness, which is unmistakable in the delicate notes of lemon ice, white flowers and the minty, cedar finish. Well-balanced with taut acidity. One of the great food wines, serve with foie gras, spicy seafood dishes, sushi and buttery, buster crabs. Available at Cork & Bottle, Sidney's Wine Cellar and Cellars of River Ridge.
2001 Cortello Vinho Tinta
Portugal $9-$13 This deep-rose tinted wine from Portugal will make you forget all about the contents of those oval-shaped bottles of Lancers and Mateus from long ago. Estate grown from an historic property in the Estremedura region, 50 miles north of Lisbon and less then an hour from the coast, the wine is blended from 50 percent Tinta Roriz -- one of several Portuguese terms for the Spanish Tempranillo grape (another being Aragonez) -- and 50 percent Castelao (aka Perikita). Aged in stainless steel to preserve the wine's freshness and pervasive fruit, the wine offers intense aromas of plum and berries, which follow through on the palate with vibrant flavors, floral notes and a delicious freshness. Good with a variety of dishes such as tapas, cold meat plates and sandwiches, and just about any ethnic cuisine. Available at The Wine Seller, Cork & Bottle, and Cellars of River Ridge.
2003 Hop Kiln A Thousand Flowers
Russian River Valley, Sonoma $10-$12 Located in one of the most extraordinary wine-producing regions and striking landscapes in California's Sonoma Valley, the historic Hop Kiln winery was built in 1905 for drying hops for Sonoma beer. In the 1960s the building and grounds were purchased by Dr. Marty Griffin, who restored the property and opened the winery in 1975. A registered National Landmark, Hop Kiln developed A Thousand Flowers as a pleasant, delightfully off-dry wine that is a summer favorite. With an estate-grown blend of 45 percent Chardonnay, 41 percent Gewürztraminer and 14 percent Riesling, the wine offers lovely floral and spice notes on the nose, with citrusy, rosewater and stone-fruit flavors on the palate. It's a very well-balanced wine, good with chicken salad, seafood, cheese and fruit plates and lighter-style foods. Available at Cork & Bottle, Dorignac's, Cellars of River Ridge, and Wine Down in Mandeville.
2001 Jadot Cote de Beaune-Villages
France $16-$19 France's Cote de Beaune, a 17-mile strip in the southern half of the Cote d'Or, generally produces softer, more accessible and fruity wines than those from the Cote de Nuits just to the north. The term "villages" can be added only to specific vineyard sites within 16 villages designated in the appellation. Blended from 100 percent Pinot Noir from selected small growers in these areas, the wine quality frequently benefits from adding village-level wines from premier vineyards such as Santenay, Auxey-Duresses, Savigny and other communes, which, in effect, declassifies the superior wines. Expect a typically elegant, aromatic bouquet with deep, ripe, red fruit and earthy undertones with sweet berry flavors and soft tannins in this supple wine. Delicious and food friendly, its good with both fleshy fish and roasted or grilled meats. Can be found at Hopper's Wines and Spirits, both Martin Wine Cellar locations, Dorignac's and Cellars of River Ridge.