Of the 5 themes of this just passed 777 week I think ‘Summer’ was my favorite. After all, Chicago is finally showing signs of the season. I walked by Quartino’s full outdoor cafe, and the Dana Hotel is showing off the outdoor patio with what looks like an opening party of sorts. And I just got home, thirsty, perspiring appropriately, in need of a refreshing beverage to take the edge off. A beer? Not tonight. I am thinking riesling. From Austria. Rudi Pichler. Yum.
Anyhow, I thought it appropriate to recap some of the fun ‘Summer Wines’ that were featured during the 777 wine week and that may provide some alternatives for consumption on the deck, by the pool, in the park (if legal), at the beach (same), or on a picnic.
Wolffer Reserve Chardonnay, The Hamptons 2005
I know what you’re thinking, “I don’t like Chardonnay”. Or maybe, “Long Island? Chardonnay?”. Or, like me you are thinking, “why would I drink anything that is not Riesling?” Honestly I can’t counter that last one. Unless you consider the place. Sag Harbor. The Hamptons. No, not P Diddy’s white party. The beach, the sand, the ultimate summer destination (actually I prefer Montauk but Wolffer is only a little more than an hour away.) And Wolffer makes a clean, mineral driven style that feels more Burgundy than California. And if you ask me, winemaker Roman Roth is the class of NY State.
Lechtaler Lagrein Rosato, Trentino Italy 2007
Rose and Summer are like Christmas and eggnog. This fresh and fruity yet mineral expressive rosato is from northeastern Italy, where german is spoken as much as italian, and where the little known but relatively available Lagrein varietal makes it’s home. Usually a sommelier favorite on all-italian wine lists, Lagrein makes a medium bodied red that I liken to merlot, perhaps with more spice. This pink version is a fun summer quaffer that will take food or please all by itself.
Pio Cesare Grignalino, Piedmont Italy 2006
Reds for Summer fall into a difficult area for sommeliers. You have your Summer Wine checklist: Riesling? Check. Rose? Check. Light bodied red? Uh, check, I think. Well, here is a light bodied red called Grignalino. Not Barbera, not Nebbiolo, this red grape of Piedmont produces a very pleasant light red with a cherry note, earth, some spice and structural element. Burgundy-like indeed. This wine was very well received by guests of the 777 Summer Wine day.
Martray Cote de Brouilly Beaujolais 2005
I have been looking for a cru Beaujolais to knock my socks off for some time. Wow. Look out for 2005 Beaujolais. This is really a Burgundy substitute (technically it is in the department, but this is Gamay, not Pinot Noir). David Burke’s Primehouse is selling it for $45 a bottle. Top value.
Betts and Scholl Riesling, Eden Valley Australia 2007
I have been poked and teased about my love affair with Betts and Scholl wines. Richard Betts was here last week and hosted a late night tasting at The James Hotel. The room was hot. No literally, it was. The air was not working. So rather than revisiting the OG Grenache, The Chronique, Black Betty, California Syrah, Hermitage Rouge, I was sipping Riesling. I think it was Richard who coined it the ‘Margarita’ of wines.
There are so many great wines for Summer and these are just a few that may prove interesting, enjoyable, and practical. I am still working on that bottle of Rudi Pichler Terassen Smaragd 2000. If you can get your hands on that and want to fire up the grill, give me a call.