Those dog days of summer are here. For the past week, the house has felt like a smoke pit after
opening the door when returning home from work. Ninety five degrees plus! Too hot to cook,
too hot to exercise, definitely too hot to sip big bodied red wine. Forget about the Cabs, Zins
and Syrahs. Need something cold to cool the palate. Beer is good but I don’t always feel like
sippin’ a frosty beer. What about simple white wines? No oak, no mouth coating buttery,
vanilla, rich flavors either which is almost like sippin’ a red. How about simple white wines that
are available at every supermarket?
Won’t Break the Bank
I realize that some of my wine recommendations from previous columns might seem like paying
a king’s ransom for the fermented grape. A “bargain” aged Barolo from the 2000 vintage for
$60 is still $60. Or that “steal” boutique Napa Cabernet for $50 is once again, still $50. Even Au
Bon Climat Pinot Noir and Chardonnay at $25 may be more than you’re used to shelling out for
a single bottle of wine.
Well, this column is devoted to wine that isn’t $20 per bottle or even $10 per bottle. Yours
truly visited my local Safeway supermarket for the wine selections of the week. I’m sure you can
find the same bargains at your local chain supermarket (without the livin’ in paradise premium
added to everything in the 50th state). I spent a total of $41.91 (no bottle was more than $8)
for six bottles of summer vino – less than 10% discount for 6 packs that Safeway offers… $39.48
with tax or $1.32 per glass. Can’t find that price for wine even at happy hour.
If you plan on serving these types of wines to dining guests but are a little ashamed that the
labels don’t say Pahlmeyer, Kistler or Aubert, just serve them from a decanter. No, decanters
aren’t only for aged red wines. They also serve as serving vessels and they don’t have to be
expensive Waterford crystal. You can choose something as simple as that “recycled” Paul Masson
carafe that contained Hearty Burgundy years ago. Just place the carafe right in an ice bucket and
you’re good to go.
A minor word of warning though. Many of these wines are at their price point not because they’
re necessarily bad wines but because they tend to have lighter body, maybe less complexity or
perhaps because they consist of a blend of regions or vintages. Therefore you may not want to
serve them on their own. Start with the food first then progress to the wine. Since wine’s natural
partner is food, make sure the food and wine marriage is always present.
Five Whites & One Red
I chose 6 different varietals that you’ll probably recognize. And yes, I did chill the one red wine
as if it were a white wine (simple red wines are refreshing chilled). What’s interesting is that two
of the domestic labels; Turning Leaf and Redwood Creek bottled wines from Germany and Italy
respectively. You’ll notice that Barefoot doesn’t produce “vintage” wines and for wines like
these, vintage doesn’t really matter anyway. By the way, most of the Champagne you see at
wine shops also doesn’t have specific vintages. Good enough for Champagne, good enough for
Barefoot Chardonnay No Vintage $5.98
A pleasant lemony-citrusy nose with hints of nectarine. A simple medium light mouthful with
nice fruit and acid with a simple light finish.
The perfect partner for grilled or pan seared seafood.
Beringer Founder’s Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2006 $7.99
Green pepper, freshly mowed grass and goose berry with a touch of pipi du chat on the nose. A
medium-light mouth feel with a touch of bitterness on the back palate and a short finish.
Try with firm white fleshed grilled fish or grilled chicken breast.
Turning Leaf Riesling Pfalz 2005 $7.49
White peach and white blossom on the nose with a light mouth feel though with nice palate
cleansing acid and a short finish.
For spicy Asian stir fries!
Redwood Creek Provincia di Pavia Pinot Noir 2006 $7.99
Dried cherry and loads of pebble on the nose with a light mouth feel and short finish. Almost
like a slightly aged Beaujolais, this light red is actually better chilled than at room temperature.
Bolla Pinot Grigio 2007 $7.48
Lemon and white flower on the nose with a medium mouth feel and good acid with a short
Would pair with any white fleshed fish or seafood, like squeezing lemon juice on the dish.
Searidge Chenin Blanc 2006 $4.98
Smells of lemon and orange blossom with a touch of honey. Just a little hint of petrol at the
back of the nose with a slightly viscous mouth feel and a short finish.
Would pair nicely with spicy Asian cuisine, Thai, Vietnamese or Sechuan.
Based on taste and price, my favorite was the Barefoot Chardonnay. I first tried their wines when
they still went by the name Barefoot Bynum. They produce a wide array of different wines
including sparkling wine and should be available at most markets. Almost as affordable as box
wines but so much better. In fact, my “cooking” wines consist primarily of Barefoot. Sip a glass
while cooking yet affordable enough to use the rest of the bottle for cooking. Or just flop
barefoot into that backyard hammock with a glass of Barefoot and some smoked ahi spread
while listening to the Barefoot Natives. Kinda makes those dog days seem a little more bearable.
Basement Bargain Wines for summer