Time to Chill
Dining outside, once merely a nice summertime option, is now a requirement in many communities around the nation. The ambiance of al fresco dining notwithstanding, it presents a challenge for those of us who enjoy a glass of wine with lunch or dinner on a warm summer day.
As temperatures soar, maintaining the proper chill on a glass of white wine can be difficult. Even a glass of red wine, ideally served at room temperature, is problematic. Room temperature was never meant to be 80-plus degrees F.
On one recent outing, I spied a guest at a nearby table tossing ice cubes into his glass of chardonnay. This works. I confess I've done it myself. But melting ice cubes will dilute your wine and water down the experience, so to speak. It's probably not the ideal solution.
The better option is to ask your server to pour your wine by the glass a half-glass at a time. Only problem there is getting your second helping if the restaurant gets busy and the server is slammed. The even better option is to order a full bottle and request an ice bucket. This works especially well in states that allow partially full bottles to be brown-bagged and taken home.
On the warmest days, even a bottle of red wine needs an ice bucket, unless drinking warm red wine is your thing. Generally, though, red wines served too warm tend to taste harsh. I do not recommend!
Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer's enthusiasm for the recommended wine.
J. Lohr 2016 Cuvee St. E, Paso Robles ($60) -- This vintage of St. E departs a bit from the theme (saluting the emphasis on merlot and cabernet franc in the Bordeaux district of Saint-Emilion). With an unusual reliance on cabernet sauvignon (41%), all is forgiven when you taste the wine. Richly layered aromas of blackberry, plum and cassis give the wine impressive heft and a long, complex finish. Notes of oak vanillin and pencil shavings signal its close relationship with the Bordeaux model. All in all, it's another winner for this ambitious Bordeaux-blend project from one of California's most accomplished producers. Rating: 95.
Domaine des Quatre Vents 2018 Fleurie AOC, France ($23.99) -- This was one of Georges Duboeuf's favorite domains. The king of Beaujolais admired its combination of delicacy and depth, for it is one of those rare wines of Beaujolais that you would dare age. The 2018 offers a spicy combination of red- and black-fruit aromas, a lifted floral note and silky tannins. It's a keeper! Rating: 94.
Tongue Dancer 2019 Rose of Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast ($22) -- Winemaker/proprietor James MacPhail is meticulous to the point that he inoculated this wine with yeast from the Bandol region of France, legendary for its crisp and delicious rose wines. Add to that bit of inside information the fact that it is made using the saigne technique (bleeding off the juice from wine otherwise meant to be made as table wine) with grapes from some of the most coveted pinot noir vineyards in California. You get the idea. It's magic in a bottle, courtesy of one of California's most respected winemakers. Rating: 94.
Sarah's Vineyard 2018 Pinot Noir, Tondre's Grapefield, Santa Lucia Highlands ($48) -- The Santa Lucia Highlands district of Monterey County, with its cool summer nights, is home to some of the finest examples of pinot noir produced in California. This vintage from Tondre's Grapefield is a beauty, showing cherry and raspberry notes, a hint of earth and firm tannins that should resolve with another year or so in bottle. Rating: 92.
Decoy 2018 Merlot, Sonoma County ($25) -- Still one of the best values in California red wine, the Decoy merlot delivers a rich, complex palate of red and blue fruit flavors; an attractive touch of oak vanillin; and supple tannins that invite easy sipping now, though with its stout backbone, it can stand up to savory roasts and grilled meats. Rating: 90.
Follow Robert on Twitter at @wineguru. To find out more about Robert Whitley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.