4 Affordable California Wines for Summer

Welcome to summer – a time for backyard barbecues with friends, lazy days lounging by the pool, and family get away adventures that make you cherish the season. A time to enjoy lighter fare filled with freshly harvested ingredients like baby vegetables, ripe tomatoes, peaches, and plums, grilled fish or steak with an herbaceous chimichurri.

I love this time of year. Being a Gemini, and sun lover, this is my time. Pairing should be as bright and lively as the cuisine it will accompany, like high acid Sauvignon Blanc, crisp, balanced Chardonnay, and fresh, inviting reds, like these easy California options.

Celebrating their 50th anniversary in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek AVA, Dry Creek Vineyards has been a long time leader in producing a distinctly Loire Valley style Fume Blanc ($16) called “Fume” as a representation of the silex, or flintstone filled soils of Loire. Vibrant and racy, layering lemongrass and soft herbs like tarragon and mint, with lemon-lime citrus, white grapefruit, and honeydew, ideal for pairing with a ponzu crudo, grilled white fish with lemon and capers, and fresh arugula and baby green salad with goat cheese.

California Chardonnay can be all over the board style wise, from rich and hearty to light and lively. Sonoma Cutrer offers a nice melange of both in its Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($25.) Though initial aromas of warm spice, hazelnut, and soft vanilla may lead you to believe this will be a heavy wine, there is a nice freshness with crisp citrus and white flower notes mingling with melon and stone fruit. Paired with seared scallops or shrimp on the plancha, crab cakes, and roasted vegetable with quinoa salad.

Cabernet Sauvignon may seem like a heavy selection for summer, and yes, it certainly doesn’t have the light body or zippy acidity of a Barbera or Pinot Noir. However, when pairing with slow cooked ribs and brisket from the smoker, or grilled skirt steak and tri-tip, you need a wine that can cut through the rich, fatty meat. But, not a wine that is heavily oak aged the screams of tannin, oak, and spice.Tribute Cabernet Sauvignon ($15) is just that. From a mix of vineyards in California’s Central Coast, the bold red shines with blackberries and cherry fruit melding with hints of cedar, chocolate, and Cigar box.

For a red wine on the lighter side, Line 39 Pinot Noirwill fit nicely. Produced from sustainably grown fruit from vineyards dotted through California, Line 39 lives by the motto that life is better with friends, food, and wine. And bonus, you can likely find for around $10. The Pinot is light, fresh, balanced, and uncomplicated, perfect for a hot summer night to pair with salmon, grilled chicken, or your best friends. #cheers