Red wine and hot weather aren’t always the best of friends, but there are plenty of exceptions, and for me, lighthearted is a lot more important than light-bodied. Below is a rather eccentric collection of Things I Have Recently Tried and Liked. Many are blends, price points range greatly, all are summer food friendly and none of them have snotty, arrogant or high-attitude notes. Enjoy.
A “meritage” is a Bordeaux style red blend that isn’t under the Bordeaux DOC. This one is on the pricey side ($50), so it’s a little more on the “occasion” side, but it’s a great wine. Central coast fruit. Bright bright bright. Light-bodied, lots of cherry and blue fruit (I get blueberries and something else “foresty” here) with notes of pepper and laurel and leather.
If you are a California Cabernet person, this wine is a heavy-hitting expression of that, and it’s a very good partner for a grilled steak. It’s inky-purple, with firm tannins and notes of blackberry, currants, and caramel.
This is a great Merlot from Lazio/ Umbria. The wine shows the grape’s hallmark plumminess and roundedness; also a lot of cocoa and spice and nuts. At about $12, it’s a steal.
A red blend from a blended winemaking team – Dennis Cakebread of Cakebread Cellars in Napa Valley and Aryn Morell, who has a background in the Walla Walla appellation. At around $40, this one’s a little more of a splurge, but it’s so good with anything grilled. A Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, Mullan’s a concentrated and full of finesse. Blackberry and plum dominant with notes of tea and spice and a tiny edge of smoke. This one will age for several years. Assuming you can keep the cork in it. Nothing ages much at my house.
Created to honor military vets, this red blend is made by Ray Coursen in collaboration with the Peter Mondavi family. Its purpose is to raise awareness of the Purple Heart Foundation, so it’s something you can feel good about supporting, and it’s just plain good. It’s smooth and lush, and reminiscent of berries and spices (I get cardamom). Opaque violet-red in the glass and very velvety on the tongue. Around $20.
SloDown Wines – well, pretentious they are not. In fact they’re pretty freaking hilarious. Their labels, their website, their entire attitude..all of it. As for the wine, Sexual Chocolate is a Syrah/Malbec blend, dark and rich and silky and – well, yeah, kind of wrong-side-of-the-tracks sexy. Cherries and spices and black plum, followed by cola, leather and, yes, chocolate. Around $25 and worth every penny before you even get to the part where it’s really nice wine. Trust me, not all Syrahs have a sense of humor and Malbecs can be downright ponderous. This stuff is a gigglefest in a bottle.
Blackberry and pastry notes, layered over currant and vanilla and oaky stuff, refined and elegant. Controlled tannins, good structure, lingering… In the $40 range, this wine is a good intimate dinner party pick.
Bright but subtle, this is a ruby-colored, lighter-bodied Pinot with a nuanced, layered nose and a lot of personality. Red fruit, especially sour cherry, combine with baking spice and toast and forest floor notes. Decent minerality, a bit of smoke, a little pepper. Long finish. Elegant. $55