Woman on Wine
with Amy Reiley
In my head, I’ve been planning this installment of Woman on Wine to be “what I drank on my summer vacation.” Perhaps because I have a first grader, I took on the challenge as though it was a primary school essay. But when I actually began to record the wines I reached for time and again during my beachside hiatus, I realized that my vacation wines concept really did represent a cohesive column.
Vacation can get you out of a rut and into something fun
Many of us change our drinking patterns in summer. We generally look for lighter wines, often those suited to chilling during summer vacations and warm-weather getaways. But most of us consider less expensive choices when looking for vacation wines. The reason for cold wines in hot weather is obvious. But the fact that our wine budget takes a dive is probably more related to state of mind than any reflection of bank account. After all, anything is going to taste better when you are sitting on a beach, a hotel balcony or any joyful and relaxed environment.
Vacation is also a chance to shut down the parts of your mind that have to run the rest of the year and, at least for me, that includes the “wine brain.” (I feel no need to evaluate the grain of tannin, level of acidity or length of a wine when I’m in vacation mode.) Vacation wines need to fill a different function. They need to quench your thirst, enhance a dining experience and offer a pleasurable sensation to your taste buds.
Here are five vacation wines that will fit all the criteria while offering a decent value for money:
This lovely bottle of bubbly is made primarily from Loire Valley Chenin Blanc. (It’s blended with 10% Chardonnay.) In my estimation, it’s the perfect kind of wine for summer drinking. It’s a great value wine with toasty aromas and the refreshing flavors of citrus. Crisp and clean, it’s a great wine on its own and with all your favorite seasonal foods from lobster rolls to burgers and potato salad.
This is a wine I used to love and I decided that summer was the perfect season to get reacquainted with this old friend. Nicely priced at under $15, this California wine is a medium-bodied Sauvignon Blanc. It has a nice balance of savory and sweet notes. Fruit flavors are lemon and lime citrus and just a hint of guava. There’s also a surprise herbal flavor on the mid palate and finish. It isn’t one of those racy, sexy sort of SB’s but it is the kind of wine you can take from daytime to nighttime.
My first taste of this wine was a highlight of the summer. And maybe it isn’t fair to evaluate a wine while being treated to a private John Legend concert, but I like to think I can be impartial. (If you aren’t already familiar, LVE is a collaboration between the singer and Raymond Vineyards.) This Côtes de Provence rosé is a beguiling, feminine blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah. It offers spring flower aromas, nectarine and berry flavor and minerality on the finish.
When I want an affordable red, especially one suitable for easy, summer afternoon drinking, I rarely look to California wines. But Hahn is one of those California wineries you can always count on to produce solid, good-value wines that everyone will enjoy. This is not a wine to serve to impress but when you want a lovely, lighter red that goes down easy, this is the one. Somewhat jammy, it offers cherry and berry notes with decent length and caramel on the finish.
Even though summer living is typically casual and wine selection should follow suit, you need a special night now and then. This Cabernet from Charles Krug can provide it. Blended with 6% Petit Verdot, it is a surprisingly mellow Cab for it’s youthful age and one that drinks well now. The grapes come from the winery’s Yountville vineyards and offer that classic dusty texture of the region. It offers blackberry and blueberry notes with a faintly exotic hint of espresso. And although it comes with a $100 price tag, I feel it is a good value for Napa Cab. It’s definitely a wine that could compete with bottles in a much higher price range.
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