Wines of the Month

August, 2001

Hot Days, Cool Whites

Summer. The season of backyard barbecues, sunny days at the beach, and hopefully, a chance to take a break from the daily grind. And did I mention heat? When the weather heats up, energy levels go down. It's difficult keep that "get up and go" attitude, when the simple act of standing up drenches you with sweat. So what do I recommend? Sit back, put your feet up, pour a nice glass of wine, and wait for cooler weather to return.

"But wait," you ask. "What kind of wine?" Now, granted, most people might not think to ask, and would just grab whatever came to hand. But if you're reading this article, you're probably the kind of person who immediately started thinking of different possibilities. So what would I recommend? There are lots of good wines for summer days, and the best way to choose one is to follow a few simple guidelines.

In the spirit of summer, and of these guidelines, I have a few simple, light, cool, and best of all, inexpensive wines (none more than $10 at retail) for you this month.

Bodega J & F Lurton Torrontes Mendoza '00 -- Is there a better white wine for less than $5? If there is, I haven't found it yet. This Argentinian white offers incredible value. I'm happy if a $5 white is drinkable; I'm shocked when I find one that I actually like. Expressive floral nose, with a perfumed character that admittedly may not be for everyone. Orange blossom and honeysuckle notes with some peach; seems a little like a cross between Roussanne and Viognier, but with its own style. Floral notes continue in the mouth, along with peach flavors and a touch of citrus. The peach, floral and citrus echo on the medium length finish, which has just enough acid at the end to give it the necessary structure. Soft style with plenty of flavor. Drink soon. Purchased for $4.76 on sale. What a bargain!

Willm Pinot Gris Alsace '00 -- Smells like pears and peaches with a touch of vanilla. Simple peach and pear flavors, along with a hint of cherry (that seems to be brought out by a soft cheese, like Brie). There's also a touch of mineral, and good acid, keeping the wine lively and giving it a little more interest. There's also some residual sugar, but not too much. Medium-length finish with pronounced pear flavor and that continuing hint of cherry. Pleasant , if somewhat simple, but very good for the price ($9.99).

Willm Pinot Gris Alsace '99 -- Nice peach and pear aromas, with some floral notes in the background. More peach and pear come through on the palate, along with a hint of cherry, some mineral notes, and more of the slightly floral character. The flavors could be a bit more concentrated, and there's a little alcohol evident in the otherwise pleasantly fruity and quenchingly acidic finish. Very nice wine for a very reasonable price ($9.99). As you might guess from this note and the one above, Willm is a consistently good bet for Alsace wines in this price range.

Hogue Cellars Riesling Late Harvest Columbia Valley '98 -- A somewhat muted nose, with some apricot and a bit of cola. Medium sweet, with medium-intensity flavors of apricot, honeyed peach, cola, a touch of pinapple, and some overripe apple. Finishes with some apricot and honey flavors. Not as interesting or intense as some previous years, when it was a truly amazing bargain, but a return to form after the disappointing '97. Still a good deal at $7.99.

As always, your comments are welcome.

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Copyright 2001 by Marcel Lachenmann.