Aspen Times Weekly: Summer wines for summertime sipping
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Finding these wines can be a bit tricky, but keep an eye out and I’m sure they will appear. Wine has a way of doing that. Prices, of course, vary as well but none of these wines should cost more than $20 a bottle and, with sales, you may do even better. Enjoy.
Domaine Ste. Michelle NV “Michelle” Brut Rosé, $15.99
2013 Bodegas Martín Códax Albarino, $14.99
2013 Domäne Wachau Terrassen Federspiel Grüner Veltliner, $17.99
2011 Stump Jump GSM, $13.99
2103 Ben Marco Malbec, $19.99
Since we have passed Memorial Day, conventional wisdom says that we are officially in the summer season. Now, if someone could just relay the message to the jet stream and get us a little warmer weather. I am, however, optimistic enough to suggest that since we are on the cusp of the season of the sun, it is time to consider the yummy wines that you will want to drink with your summertime living.
Summer wine shopping is a little different from the rest of the year. Why? Well, for the same reason that summer is different from the rest of the year. It’s a little more casual, a little more frivolous. It’s a season that calls for some spontaneity and a little less seriousness. The foods are fresh; the grill gets fired up more often.
Summer is a great time to take a virtual trip around the wine world and around the vineyard. Use the season to experiment with different grapes and explore regions that may be new to you. Spend less money, but buy more bottles. Be bold in your experimentation. Here are five suggestions for inexpensive summer sippers (none should set you back more than $20) that will work well with the foods of summer.
Let’s start with the sea. Briny, salty mollusks and shellfish go well with so many wines. Chardonnay and lobster are classic partners and Sancerre and Chablis, crisp French wines made from Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, are the obvious choices for oysters. But there are alternatives.
Take those little, lush Kumamoto and Olympia oysters from waters off Puget Sound, for example. Served naked and cold, fresh from the sea, they can pair perfectly with a sparkling wine. Stay in the Great Northwest and pour a “Michelle” Brut Rosé NV by Washington’s Domaine Ste. Michelle. Pinot Noir with a touch of Pinot Meunier, this wine is made using the traditional “méthode champenoise.” Light and clean, it offers just enough fruit and brightness to make your Kumamoto purr.
Prefer the Atlantic for your oyster fix? Maybe some Wellfleets from the Cape or Malpecques from PEI? Again, you can’t go wrong with a Sancerre, but why not head to Spain for a flinty and dry Albariño. The Bodegas Martín Códax Albariño 2013 is affordable, crisp and bright. All good things. Serve this wine from the always-reliable importer, Eric Solomon, ice cold and you’ll taste a different side of the Atlantic. Magic from Galicia.
Farm to table is the refrain of the summer dining season, but hitting just the right note with fresh salads and veggies can be a tough thing. Asparagus, for example, has long been considered one of the most difficult foods to pair with wines and even a green salad with a strong dressing can pose a challenge.
But here come the Austrians to save the day. In recent years, the smart set has adopted Grüner Veltliner, a highly acidic, green grape that thrives along the banks of the Danube River, as the go-to for all things vegetal. The Domäne Wachau Terrassen Federspiel Grüner Veltliner 2013 has hints of lemon and white pepper on the palate and will not be overwhelmed by the herbaceous elements of your greens.
It’s time to light a fire and flip a few burgers. For that we shall switch to a red wine from the southern climes, specifically McLaren Vale in South Eastern Australia. This is where Chester Osborn practices the “art of being different.”
One of my favorite winemakers, Osborn produces a plethora of wines; I mean literally a plethora, but the most accessible and easy to find wines are from The Stump Jump series. Named not for an off road bike maneuver, but rather a plow that is used to clear the plains of the Vale, there are five whites (including a sweet dessert wine the Aussies call a “Sticky”) and three reds. My fave for Tuesday night burgers is the 2011 Stump Jump GSM. A blend of Grenache/Shiraz/ Mourvèdre, it is filled with the flavor of blackberries and cherries, and both the start and finish are full. Fun and maybe the best bargain wine in any shop.
On Saturdays, the grill gets lit yet again. And around my house, so does the grill master. Saturday usually means a slower pace, a lower heat, and a bit longer “hang-time” for the meats as they linger over the fire. Big meaty, beef ribs that can cook for an entire afternoon remind me of Argentina and the primal fires that sear the meats. That brings Malbec to mind. The first lady of the Mendoza, Susana Balbo, makes Malbec at Domino del Plata that can range to over $100 a bottle. But to me, the bargain 2103 Ben Marco Malbec is a steal. Sustainably grown, hand picked and aged in French Oak, this is a wine that will take you to the foothills of the Andes.
Five wines for less than $20 from five different countries. Time to have at it.
Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be-designated appellation of Old Snowmass with his wife, Linda, and black lab, Vino. He can be reached at email@example.com
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Perhaps it’s because we are in the abbreviated days of winter and I instinctively know that the sun is shining down-under. But every January I go through a nostalgic period where Australian wine dominates my mind.