Happy June, though it is a very weird time in our country, and our world. It is still a new month of sunshine and happiness because this is the month I was born. This year’s birthday isn’t a big one, just a day, but it is still a month to be celebrated. Here are five wines to put on your “to drink” list that are all easy, approachable, and highly affordable, perfect for popping open on any afternoon or evening (as face it, we are all still day-drinking a bit.)
I have been using my pandemic stay-in-place usefully, doing a deep dive into the wines of Spain, studying to become a Spanish Wine Scholar, so we have been toasting with a lot of wines of Spain. And, there is nothing better to toast Spain with than Cava. I am a huge fan of the traditional method made sparkler that showcases the indigenous Spanish varieties of Macabeo, Xarel.lo, and Parellada. Before starting my class I thought Cava was only produced in the Catalan region of Penedes. Little did I know the bubbly is actually produced all over Spain, including designated areas with the region of Rioja, Pais Vasco, and Extremadura. But, the most well known Cava is from Penedes. The beauty of Cava is that you have the quality production methods of Champagne, without the Champagne price, and one of the best is Segura Viudas. Segura Viudas Brut Cava ($11) shines with fresh citrus, tropical pineapple and guava, and white flowers, with a touch of yeasty, nuttiness thanks to the minimum aging in the bottle of 9 months.
From the fourth-generation of Napa Valley’s C. Mondavi family, Flat Top Wines is guided by consulting winemaker Angelina Mondavi and winemaker Randy Herron with the goal to showcase California wines, delivering structure, body, and character, (and a great price point for their quality.) Flat Top Chardonnay ($16) from family-owned vineyards in California Central Coast’s Dunnigan Hills and Monterey Coast, is textured, with a medium-body, layering ripe apple and pear, with candied lemon peel, tropical pineapple, and fresh cream.
Super crisp, light, and ideally paired with summertime salads or fresh fish dishes, Bread and Butter Sauvignon Blanc ($16) layers juicy lemon and lime, with tropical kiwi and lychee, with just a hint of crushed stone minerality on the finish. Lovely and lively.
Dry rosè screams of summertime and Paso Roble’s Justin Winery and Vineyards crafts their coppery, salmon-colored Rose ($20) from predominantly Syrah, creating a slightly spicy, floral, and soft herb-filled wine with juicy red berries, red delicious apple, and a hint of chamomile and white pepper.
Heading back to Spain for a red wine option, Tempranillo is ideal for your summertime enjoyment, with the wines of Rioja showcasing the fruit like none other. Rioja is one of two DOCa regions in Spain (Priorat being the other) with strict guidelines for how their wines can be made, honoring traditional methods while constantly embracing change. One producer who is highly regarded for this is Bodegas Lan. Using French oak barrel heads and American oak staves, Bodegas Lan Crianza Rioja DOCa ($15) melds ripe cherry, ripe berry, plum, and golden peach with toasted vanilla and sweet spice. Aged 12 months in the bottle, and a minimum of two calendar years from October 1 the year of harvest before release, the wine (currently on the 2016 vintage) is an incredible bang for your buck options. Like many wines of Spain, Bodegas Lan Crianza delivers a delicious, juicy, earthy, well-rounded wine for a highly affordable price.
Light-bodied reds are lovely throughout the summer season, making summertime Pinot Noir time (but really, it is Pinot time anytime in my house.) But, I love a fresh, fruit-forward Pinot paired with flavors of spring and summer, like summer salads, grilled white meat (like chicken and pork), and of course, fresh salmon on the grill. Pinot Noir is also a wine you can get away with slightly chilling, so don’t be afraid to pop yours in the fridge for a few minutes as you get the grill going. Hess Select Pinot Noir ($19) melds ripe cherry, raspberry, and pomegranate with just a touch of black tea for an easy option at a great price.