Bacchic Reflections

Instinctively my palate now requires and anticipates
sweetness and lightness...and cool wine, fitting glove-like
over those finer nerves that seem to tremble from the
roof of my mouth and make it spread (as I drink) into a
domed cavern, green with vine leaves,
musk-scented, purple with grapes.

                                                                                  Virginia Woolf
                                                                                  The Waves

       Give me books, fruit, French wine and fine weather              and a little music out of doors. 
                                                               John Keats

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Reds worth cellaring...Cabs, Pinots, Other
                            B.E.'s Cellar Notes

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Sauvignon Blanc 2015--sometimes labeled Fumé Blanc--shows an appealing minerality that complements the briny minerals of seafood. Several regions produce excellent ones--France (Bordeaux Blanc, Sancerre and other Loire Valley Sauvignons), California, New Zealand and Chile among others. Mostly unoaked, or with light touches of oak, the 2015s are streaming into the market, but 2014s are still quite good. Here are some to look for:
Bellevue Sauvignon de Touraine   Loire Valley   $14.99**+ at A Southern Season right now--their most popular Sauvignon, and it is indeed bright and tasty.
Dry Creek Vyd 2015 Fumé Blanc, Sonoma, $15**+   Fresh lemony accents make this nicely balanced Sauvignon very appealing; a little less grassy than previous vintages--which I like very much. Good value, too.
Amici  2014 Sauvignon Blanc  Napa Valley $25***  Highly aromatic, with a broader flavor profile than many Sauvignons due to the  musqué clone of sauvignon blanc--yet it still has the spine of minerality that gives it lively zest. Excellent for  white meat chicken, halibut or shrimp scampi.
Trione 2014 Sauvignon Blanc  Russian River Valley $22***  The merest hint of oak graces this smooth but rich Sauvignon. The lemony fruit intensity makes it a good match for shelfish--like summer lobster rolls!  The 2015 will be out soon.
Martin Ray 2015 Sauvignon Blanc   Russian River Valley $20**+  A quality name in California wine since the 1940s, Martin Ray was an innovator in the 1950s and '60s. New owners moved it from the Santa Clara hills to the Russian River Valley. This crisp, tasty Sauvignon has appealing accents of tropical fruit (the sweet/tart of mango). A charmer.
Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc 2015   New Zealand   $15-18**+  An excellent value in NZ Sauvignons, with typically exciting zest and tang. A great match for shellfish and other seafood. Very nice just for sipping, too. 
Kim Crawford Spitfire 2015  NZ  $26***  This Sauvignon has the "cut" of good Sancerre--worth a search.

Summer Whites...

Chablis 2014  Albert Bichot Long-Depacquit France **+  $25
-- $19.99 through this week at Hillsborough Wine Co.  Delightful--a nice mineral 'cut' on this 100% chardonnay makes it a superb choice for shellfish (including oysters or cherrystone clams on the half shell). Excellent value on sale at HBC.

Albariño. Spain's lyrical and fragrant white wine is perfect for summer. A fresh batch of 2014s has arrived on wine shelves. These are appealing whites that sip beautifully and make delightful aperitifs.  Albariño is a white grape native to Rias Baxias, a district in the northern Spain region of Galicia; these floral-scented wines have become very popular in the U.S. Some are off-dry, but there are quite dry ones that go nicely with lighter fish and shellfish (scallops, shrimp) such as these, ranging from $17 to $24 a bottle:  Baladiña, Valminor, Señor da Folla Verde- 3 dry versions that are extremely appealing, fragrant and bracing--excellent summer choices

Guigal Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc 2014    France   $15-17**   this dry white from the Rhône Valley is quite charming, a blend of viognier, marsanne and roussane, with aromas of wildflowers, hints of peach; round, fruity, assertive but well-balanced.

Let's Drink Pink!   Dry pinks, that is....and among my favorites are rosés of pinot noir for their enticing fragrance and fruit, which is knockout; but I like lots of others as well--those made from grenache, cinsault, mourvèdre, Spain's garnacha. Some pinks boast lofty  pricetags, but moderate-priced good ones abound for $14-18. These wines are lovely on their own just for sipping, and highly versatile with a variety of seasonal fare.  A rosy river of young, fresh 2015s are streaming our way--and here some I've tasted and recommend:
Hecht & Bannier 2015 Côte de Provence Rosé   Provence $18**+   $15.99 on sale at Chapel Hill Wine Co -- A very attractive dry pink, fresh and fragrant with floral and spice scents, as well as a bracing mineral spine that makes it both refreshing and food-friendly. Blended from grenache, cinsaut and syrah, it's definitely one to look for and stock as a summer staple.
Martin Ray Rosé of Pinot Noir 2015  Russian River Valley  $20 ***   Russian River pinot noir makes a bold Pinot, and a bold dry pink from free-run juice that is highly versatile with a variety of foods--slow-roasted pork, grilled chicken or sausages, grilled salmon.
Baron de Ley Rosado 2015   Rioja, Spain     $15.99**  ($11.99 at Chapel Hill Wine Co)
Hints of strawberry scent this dry rosé made from 100% tempranillo; it's dry, fresh and spritely; a season bargain this week at $12--worth snapping up!
Chateaumar Côtes-du-Rhône Perle de Rosé 2015  Rhône Valley  $15-16**+   Mostly grenache, pale pink but quite tasty, redolent of early summer berries.
Sancerre Rosé 2015, Domaine Eliza Gueneau   Loire Vally  $28.99***  This is one of those pinot noir knockouts! Wonderfully fragrant, beautifully balanced, delicious flavors of fresh berries (strawberries, raspberries). Pricey, like most rosés of pinot noir but in this case, worth it. Find it at Hillsborough Wine Co.

Bubbles.........I always have one on ice, just in case....
Crémant de Limoux, Domaine J. Laurens  NV  Languedoc-Rousillon  **+  $16.99 at The Raleigh Wine Shop. Bright and crisp, quite dry, very Champagne-like--no surprise, there's chardonnay in the blend. An excellent value.
Blason de Bourgogne Crémant de Bourgogne Rosé   France  $11.99  Dry and zesty, mostly pinot   noir; great value at Trader Joe.
J Vineyards 'Cuvée 20'   Russian River Valley   $25***  An appealing very dry froth with floral scents of honeysuckle and bright citrus flavors. Nice zing on the palate but creamy in texture, with a steady stream of tiny bubbles; good depth, long in finish.
Gloria Ferrer 'Royal Cuvée' Brut 2007   Carneros, Sonoma  $22-26.**+  Consistently good, and consistently a medal winner in national wine competitions bright and fresh, good balance and length;  very good with smoked salmon and other saovry hors d'oeuvres.
Domaine Chandon Blanc de Noirs NV, Califonria, $18-22**+  Brisk, bright, clean, dry and quite delicious. Keep this sparkler on hand  as a great aperitif, year-round.  I've tasted this wine several times with great pleasure. An excellent value, too.
Domaine Chandon Etoile Brut Rosé  $24-30***  Chandon's top cuvée--a dry pink, very elegant with a delicate scent of strawberry; tiny stream of bubbles, long in finish. A delicious match with smoked salmon.  The traditional Etoile Brut is excellent as well.

REDS For NOW                                                         

One of the red wines I love to drink in summer is lighter versions of Pinot Noir -- I save the bigger, darker reds for cooler weather. There are big, dark Pinot Noirs, too, but this time of year I look to Oregon because so many Oregon Pinot Noirs have a freshness, elegance and charm  that I love. Oregon Pinot is my first pick for grilled salmon--year-round actually, but especially in warmer weather.
        The 2014 vintage is touted as one of the best of the last decade--and that was abundantly clear at a recent tasting held at Chapel Hill Wine Co. in Chapel Hill, NC. I was delighted with these wines--they have an appealing freshness and wonderful cherry/berry flavors.  Among the few reds that can be simply delicious just on its own for alfresco sipping.  Look for these--currently on sale at CHWC, but available at other wine shops around the triangle and across the nation:
Adelsheim Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley    $25.59/32***+    Adelsheim, one of the modern pioneers of Oregon Pinot, consistently produces balanced, beautifully crafted Pinots. This 2014 was/is one of the tastiest of the bunch and so aromatic--I would cool it slightly when it's really hot outdoors, especially as an aperitif, but it's a great partner for salmon, grilled chicken or pork chops, sausages and creamy cheeses.
Aberrant Cellars Confero 2014 Pinot Noir   $23.99/30***   Another quite tasty Pinot from one of the newer wineries--a little more desnity in body and flavor, great for grilling and also for cheese dishes, particularly goat cheese.
Twelve  2014 Pinot Noir     $22.99**+  Don't let the pale color fool you--there is lovely intensity of flavor here--ripe cherries, a hint of marionberry. Versatile for many seasonal dishes. Very quaffable!
Arterberry Maresh Pinot Noir 2014  Dundee Hills   $27-37***   One of the top-rated labels in the Willamette Valley--and one of the pioneers. This vibrant blend from several of their vineyards is excellent, with cherry, fraises des bois and a hint of blackberry. Nicely structured but eminently drinkable now with the likes of roast pork or duck, grilled lamb or duck breast.

I don't drink a lot of Cabernet Sauvignon in  summer--except for an occasional lighter one, not too big and tannic --when grilled meats fairly scream for it. One such:
Martin Ray 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County   22-25**+    Smooth and balanced, svelte in texture with ripe berry flavors, plump and round. Perfect for grilled ribeye or loin lamb chops.
Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon 2014  Sonoma  $15-20.   Black cherry flavors highlight this Cab, dark but not heavy or tannic, supple enough for roast or grilled vegies, yet the structure to handle meats and savory cheeses.  Consistent quality, good value.

Other Reds
                A tasty Spanish redBodegas Castaño Monastrell 2014    Spain   $11.99**+   Juicy! A very drinkable red, perfect for summer-into-fall sipping. Highly versatile with food (chill a bit if the weather's hot). Suits grilled chicken, sausages or other light meats;
Ch. D'Oupia  Les Hérétiiques 2013  Languedoc Rousillon  $12.99, $9.99** at A Southern Season. Generally a rather mild red but this vintage has a little more punch in flavor and body, making it a solid everyday red.

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                                                                                                                                             ©Barbara Ensrud