It’s finally here. The first official Friday of Summer! We’ve made a deal with Mother Nature and arranged for a beautiful day. No worries, no need to thank us, we were happy to do it. It’s time to scrape off the mold, get out into the sunshine and taste some fantastic summer wines. What makes a wine a “summer wine”? To me it’s all about bright, bold, refreshing flavors, wines that taste of the sunshine that nurtured them and the romance of a balmy summer evening.
Choya Umeshu, Plum Wine, Japan $18
I’m all about summertime cocktail hour. Although, as the hour sometimes stretches beyond its allotted 60 minutes, I am often looking for a lower alcohol alternative. Enter the Green Tea/Plum Wine Cocktail we are featuring tonight. Perfect for sipping on the beach, at a picnic or while watching the sunset. So what exactly is Ume? As Choya will tell you, despite calling themselves a Plum wine, ume are not plums. They are in the Prunus subgenus, along with plums and apricots, but contain much higher acidity levels. This crisp freshness makes it a deliciously refreshing beverage. It also contains high levels of polyphenols, potassium, magnesium, calcium and vitamin B17 – so it’s good for you! Ume was introduced to Japan via a Chinese envoy circa 500AD, by 980AD the health benefits of ume were extolled in the Ishinho, Japan’s oldest medical publication. Choya began growing grapes in 1914 and in 1959 began producing umeshu. The wine can be enjoyed on it’s own, over ice, blended with sparkling wine or as featured tonight with green tea.
2008 Domaine de La Pépière Muscadet Sèvre et Main Sur Lie, Loire Valley, France $14
Marc Ollivier is a Muscadet genius. Or I suppose it’s not really that he is doing anything magical, he is just taking the time to do things right. While many producers are rushing to get the vintages wine in bottle by January, machine harvesting, inoculating with yeasts, skimping on lees time and stringent filtering, Marc is a traditionalist. His vines are about 40 years old, he hand harvests, uses the natural yeasts in the environment and lets the wine stay in contact with the lees (the spent yeast cells) until May. The result is all the crisp refreshment you want from Muscadet, but with incredibly underlying complexity. He produces Muscadets that can age for 20 years (yes, I was skeptical until I tried it as well!) If you are not familiar with this wine style, Muscadet hails from the Nantais region of the Loire Valley in France. The grape is actually Melon De Bourgogne, reflecting its roots in Burgundy, but was brought to Nantais by Dutch traders and now grows uniquely in this region. It It’s referred to as “Health Wine” in the region as it is both low in alcohol and low in residual sugar! Drink up.
2008 Ameztoi Rubentis Getariako Txakolina, The Basque Region, Spain $23
Welcome to the wonders of Txakoli! The perfect warm weather quaffer guaranteed to transport you to a café in Bilbao. This unique wine is a 100% Hondaribbi Beltza, a red grape that is typically vinified white and blended with Hondaribbi Zuri. Here it allowed to remain in contact with the skins for a bit to give it a hint of candied red fruit. The wine is fermented entirely in stainless steel and a bit of the natural CO2 is retained which gives the wine its characteristic zip. Ignacio Ameztoi is the seventh generation of his family to carry on the tradition of making wine in the province of Getaria and they are considered one of the flagship producers of the region. From the scenic vineyards you can see the town of St. Sebastian and understand the strong influence of the Atlantic Ocean on these wines. We typically only get one case of this wine a year, but we were thrilled that a few more managed to show up! We thought we should share them quickly before we drank them all ourselves!
2006 Coltibuono “Cancelli” Rosso, Tuscany, Italy $11
A total steal mini- Super Tuscan! Badia a Coltibuono is an iconic estate in Chianti, near the town of Gaiole, with a storied history dating back over a thousand years. The estate was originally a monastery, but was acquired by the Stucchi family in 1846. Emanuela Stucchi is now at the helm, assisted by her three brothers. All of the estate vineyards are farmed organically and they are committed to producing wines of the highest quality. For their Coltibuono labels they do source fruit from neighboring vineyards, but their expertise shines through in these value offerings. The Cancelli is a blend of 70% sangiovese and 30% syrah, with grapes sourced from throughout Tuscany. Syrah plays well with the sangiovese, giving it a bit more color and body than you see from sangiovese alone. No oak is used in the winemaking so it’s all about the juicy gulpable fruit. This makes is a great grab and go wine for the summer. Not too light, not too heavy, this wine works for picnics, barbecues and loves watching the Sox.
2007 Tenute Cisa Asinari Dei Marchesi di Gresy Nebbiolo Martinenga, Langhe, Italy $26
Wow, bet you’re glad that wasn’t your name in first grade… This is one of the loveliest and pure expressions of the nebbiolo grape I have had in a long time. While the Di Gresy family has owned this estate since 1900, they always sold their grapes to wineries in the area. It was in 1973 that Alberto di Gresy started vinifying his own wines as he was spending so much time and care in the vineyards that he couldn’t bear to just send the grapes off! Since Roman times the Martinenga estate, then known as “Villa Martis”, has been renowned for it’s nebbiolo vineyards and produces some of the finest Barbaresco in the region. The 11 ha vineyard has fantastic southern exposure for maximum sunlight and the characteristic blue marl soil, which gives the wine great finesse. With this bottling, the goal is to showcase the stunning fruit of this site. Rather than putting the wine into barrel and ageing it according to the requirements for Barbaresco, this version does not see oak and is bottles to preserve its freshness. This would make a lovely accompaniment to an outdoor meal under your grape arbor or on the patio. Cured meats, cold salads, friends, family and wine!
2008 Bricco Mondalino, Molignano, Malvasia di Casorzo, Piedmont, Italy $23
Do you believe in love at first sip? You might after trying this fun, fizzy, fabulousness. Malvasia is a grape planted all over Italy and comes in many different varieties, white, red and black. This is a rare example of Malvasia Rosso, which is planted in the Piedmont region near Asti in the township of Casorzo. The soil of this single vineyard at Molignano is rich in fossils and has a high mineral component, which lends a lovely backdrop to the fruitiness. Only 10,000 bottles of this wine are produced by winemaker extraordinaire Mauro Gaudio (whose name translates to bliss is Italian, coincidence, I think not!) who carries on three centuries of family tradition. The fermentation is stopped early, yielding a low alcohol wine carries it’s residual sugar gracefully. While this is a dessert friendly wine, particularly lovely with fresh fruit salads, the wine is never cloying. Rather it is decidedly refreshing with hints of rose petals and raspberries.