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By Jeff Stearns | STAFF
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Wines for the summertime
By Geoff Bland

Each year as summer begins, I am asked, "What is your favorite wine for summer?"

This question always gives me pause, as I can never come up with a single answer. Summer is my favorite season, but it's so multi-dimensional that it calls for many wines.

Celebrating the start of summer always calls for a little bubbly, and nothing says summer better than Gruet Brut Rose, $15. This salmon-colored sparkler has explosive strawberry and cherry fruit on the nose, followed by wonderful flavor; it comes from New Mexico, of all places. Who knew about New Mexico and great sparkling wine?

Chilling out on the patio after work is a wonderful way to wind down the workday, and it calls for a nice glass of crisp, refreshing white wine. The 2008 Elsa Bianchi Torrontes, $12, from Argentina is perfect: aromatic with nice floral notes and lovely citrus and peach character. If you like your wine a little zippier, try the 2008 Mussel Bay Sauvignon Blanc, $12, from New Zealand. This wine is a great bargain, and it oozes passion fruit, gooseberry and a bit of pink grapefruit.

I am a sucker for steamed mussels during summer, and one of my favorite wines with this dish is the 2008 Clos de la Fine Muscadet, $12, from the Loire valley of France. The crisp acidity and mineral notes of this wine are the perfect foil for the briny shellfish; it also works well with oysters or light white fish. If you move on to more robust fare, such as grilled chicken or salmon, I am always torn between a more full-bodied white or a medium-bodied red that taste good with a bit of a chill, say 30 minutes in the fridge before serving. The 2008 Chehalem INOX Chardonnay, $20, hails from Oregon. Full-bodied and packed with ripe fruit, this wine sees no oak, so the pure Chardonnay character shines through.

Lounging poolside is one of my favorite summer pastimes, and nothing says pool like a full bodied, dry Rose. I tend to favor ones from France, as they have great character and a little less alcohol than their Spanish counterparts. The 2008 Domaine de Saint Antoine, $12, comes from the south of France. Mostly Grenache, it has lovely cherry and red berry character. The 2008 Axel des Vignes Rose, $10, comes from Bordeaux and is made from Cabernet and Merlot. A little deeper in color and robust in body, this is fun to drink by itself or with food.

Finally we come to grilling out, one of the staples of summer for most Americans. This is a place that calls for red wines with lots of flavor and not too heavy. The 2007 Domaine de Moulin, $15, comes from the Gaillac region in southern France. It is a blend of Cabernet and two local grapes. The Cabernet flavor comes through, but it is a bit lighter and fresher than a big Napa Cabernet -- perfect with burgers or pork chops. The 2007 Font du Vent Notre Passion, $18, is a killer example of Cotes du Rhone. Gobs of black fruit, pepper and wild herbs are a perfect foil for a big, juicy steak. Finally, one of the great joys of summer is fresh basil pesto tossed with pasta and served alongside grilled lamb chops. This combination calls out for Italian wine. Don't miss the elegant and balanced 2008 Poggio Vignoso Chianti, $14. This wine and the food are a match made in heaven.

Branch out and enjoy some of these diverse wines this summer; you will expand your wine horizons and be glad you did.

Story published Friday, July 2, 2010 ( Volume 5, Number 4 )

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