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Warm Weather White Wines

Summer Sippers


I’m often asked to list my favorite wines, and my answer is always the same: It depends upon my mood, the food being served, and/or the weather at the time. I may love big, bold reds, but on a hot day, I crave a crisp white wine or a cold beer. I’m not saying you can’t have red wines during the spring or summer. In fact, I love a bold zinfandel with a backyard barbecued hamburger on a warm summer night, after the sun has gone down and the warm breezes mingle with cool ones coming off our coastline. But, in the middle of the day, if I’m enjoying lunch with a friend, or a glass of wine out on the patio, I want to cool off with a light, crisp wine with a moderate degree of alcohol. I don’t want a 15 percent alcohol wine that I’ll only be able to enjoy for a few sips and that will fatigue me early in the day. Instead, I’ll be reaching out for some of the wines I’ve listed below.

Before I go any further, a general rule I follow when buying my everyday warm-weather wines is “less is more”-and I’m talking about pricing here. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: You don’t have to pay a lot of money for a good wine. Sometimes it turns out that amazing wines are also amazingly expensive, but solid, well-made wines can be obtained in the lower price ranges.

Don’t be afraid to be an armchair traveler when it comes to buying warm weather whites. Read up, if you have the time, on the great white wines of South Africa, Alsace, and Austria. You’ll find that many of them are competitively priced, widely available in Santa Barbara County and the surrounding areas, and easy to drink in their youth. If you’re willing to step outside your comfort zone of buying only from producers of whom you’ve heard, you’ll find a treasure trove of delicious, memorable, and inexpensive wines waiting to be discovered.

2005 Wine of Good Hope

country: South Africa; region: Stellenbosch;

varietal: chenin blanc, $9.

This is a great wine that pairs well with just about anything-a tuna melt, seafood salad, bowl of butter popcorn, you name it. There is an underpinning of acidity that keeps this wine lively and bright on the palate. I’m especially enamored by its green apple notes, which tend to be ample, yet never cloying.

2005 Mulderbosch

country: South Africa; region: Stellenbosch;

varietal: chenin blanc, $14.

South Africa’s Mulderbosch winery has been making distinctive, high-quality, reasonably priced wines for years. Whenever I pick up a bottle of wine made by this producer, I know I can’t go wrong. The chenin blanc has a pretty and daring nose, with gardenia buds and gooseberry accents prevalent throughout. I like the mouth feel of this chenin and, though I’m sure it would pair well with many things, I think it’s great on its own as a sipping wine.

2004 Gobelsburg

country: Austria; region: Kamptal;

varietal: gr¼ner veltliner, $13.

Gr¼ner veltliner is a fun grape. I’m glad this grape has captured the hearts of Americans because it’s affordable, easy to drink, and perfect for sunny weather. It’s not unusual to find a great gr¼ner at moderate prices. These wines tend to be tart, so I enjoy pairing them with cold pasta dishes or curry chicken salad-something that can absorb a bit of this grape’s natural acid, so it doesn’t appear to be too bitter. When paired with foods, these wines are crowd pleasers.

2005 Ludwig Hiedler “Thal”

country: Austria; region: Kamptal;

varietal: gr¼ner veltliner, $24.

Though this wine is a bit more expensive than other gr¼ners, it’s worth every penny. I discovered it a few weeks ago during a trip to New York. A young sommelier poured it for me on a very warm, humid night, and it was perfect. He recommended it with the smoked trout I had ordered and, for a moment, I was in culinary and enological heaven. Luckily, the “Thal” wines are available stateside and can be found in Santa Barbara at finer retailers and restaurants.

2004 Domaine Zind Humbrecht

country: France; region: Alsace;

varietal: gew¼rztraminer, $21.

I first discovered the gew¼rztraminer grape in my twenties, and I’ve been in love with it ever since. It produces remarkably flavorful and memorable wines, and this one’s no different. I love this producer and have had much luck with these wines throughout the years. No food needed, really, since this wine is a veritable explosion of exotic, floral fragrances and flavors. Crisp, light, and absolutely lovely.

2005 Navarro

country: U.S.; region: Anderson Valley, California;

varietal: gew¼rztraminer, $18.

I have been a fan of Navarro Vineyards for many years, and I never tire of its white wine program. Until you’re able to visit the lovely tasting room in Anderson Valley, not far from Mendocino, you’ll want to at least purchase one of the white wines. You’ll be hooked. These are consistently balanced, interesting, and delicate.

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