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IN THE SPIRIT: MIDSUMMER WINES DREAM

At this point, summer is in full swing. The grass is definitely green and the lawn chairs are spread out in the backyard.  We have already spent some time hanging up strings of lights and fun decorations outside. To some lucky ones, there might even be a pool involved and the barbeque has cooked anything between burgers, hot dogs and all the summer veggies you can find.

Photo above: Bounty Hunter Wine Bar in Napa Valley, “BBQ and Wine” @bountyhunterbbqnapa on instagram.

Now is the time to start enjoying what summer has to offer with your favorite wine!

What wine goes better with that spicy shrimp salad? Should I serve white or red with the BBQ ribs? Sommeliers are trained to pair wine with food of all types. We must always pay attention to the balance between the two and learning how to achieve that, is actually a fun process, but arduous nonetheless.  This time, however, let’s focus on wines to be sipped and enjoyed without food. We called them “Porch Pounders” because well… you can just pound a glass or three just sitting on your porch in the rocking chair, or even on those lawn chairs you have spread out in the backyard.  These are uncomplicated wines, meant to simply enhance the moment rather than the food. So in this case, we will pair them with the occasion rather than what you’re eating…  Here is a breakdown:

Sparkling wines are incredibly versatile because you can also mix some great tasting cocktails beyond Mimosa’s and Bellini’s. Like the Spritz Cocktail (Prosecco, Aperol, Soda Water and an Orange slice) with more of an Italian Riviera feel. So if you’re lounging by the pool or even made it to the lake and brought along your bar to-go kit, this will transport you to the Tyrrhenian Sea.  If you are a beer lover and you’re torn between having a cold one or a glass of wine, combine both and go for a Black Velvet (Equal parts Guinness and Champagne). One of my favorites is Death in the Afternoon (Very cold Champagne and Absinthe) allegedly created by Ernest Hemingway who also write a book by the same name… Both can be enjoyed on the porch, at the same time!

White Wines. Let’s start with an easy one and, as discussed in the previous issue with Brian McClure, Chardonnay can be quiet a chameleon. This time, we will stay with the un-oaked version. A dry, crisp style that focuses on fresh green apple and pear flavors rather than the richer and riper style—those wines will be a better match with food.  Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc are both crowd favorites, but if you’re looking for alternatives and maybe something new, try an Albariño from Spain. The grape comes from the Northwestern part of the country in Galicia, where the cool climate, plenty of rain and the close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean gives this grape a zippy acidity and bright flavors of orange peel, lemon zest and a creamy texture that is sure to impress your backyard friends. If you want to impress them even more, go for a hard to pronounce but easy to drink Grüner Veltliner (GROO-ner  VEHLT-lee-ner). Originally from Austria, this grape can be a pleasant sipper with a zesty lime and slightly spicy flavors, very floral as well…

Rosé  Wines. Yes I know, rosés  are somewhat controversial in nature, mostly because of the association with our own White Zinfandel. But I assure you, the vast majority of the rosés being made right now are dry and packed with fresh fruit flavors, ideal for an afternoon by the pool or even a romantic sunset, since they tend to bring out the romantic side in us. Look for roses from Provence, Languedoc or even some from the Rhone Valley in France. There are some delicious domestic representations, as well. Look for the ones made from Pinot Noir, Grenache or any other red blend.

Red Wines. Speaking of Pinot Noir and Grenache, both are well suited for an early evening gathering. Both grapes burst with juicy red fruits and enough character to start a discussion on which grape is better tasting… If you are a fan of Italian wines and have had enough of Sangiovese, you should try a nice chilled glass of Lambrusco. There are many different styles of this wine, from very dry to semi sweet, but one thing is for sure – Porch + Lambrusco = Happiness!

Another controversial grape is Gamay. That’s right, the grape of Beaujolais! We are very familiar with the Nouveau style which comes out on the third Thursday of every November. The region produces wines in a wide range of qualities, but rest assured, they are the perfect match for a Midsummer Night!

No matter what your preference is, just remember that enjoying your favorite wine is not only about the food it goes with, it’s also about the experiences and memories you are creating. For centuries, wine has made people happy not only because of the buzz you get from drinking it, but because of the camaraderie and sense of well being amongst humanity.

Let’s keep this tradition going for as long as we can!

– Robert Aquilino, Sommelier/Manager, Sam Snead’s at The Greenbrier. Hashtag #92. August 2017.

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