Some summer red wine recommendations.
By Louis Marmon
Gazette Newspapers July 22, 2009
Red wines most suitable for summer have assertive fruit flavors integrated with pepper or spice that complement the smokiness of grilled foods. Classically Zinfandel, Syrah and Malbec are excellent choices. The complexity resulting from combining multiple varietals makes blended wines also work well with summer fare.
The Chateau D’Aussieres Corbieres 2005 ($30) is produced at an estate owned by Chateau Lafitte Rothschild in France’s Lanquedoc-Roussillon region. It’s far less expensive than the flagship wine that is produced in Bordeaux. This medium-bodied wine, a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Carignan, exhibits pepper, cherry and dark fruit with slight oakiness and smokiness at the end. It is great with steak.
Two Spanish choices are the lush Legaris Ribera del Duero Crianza 2005 ($20), with spicy cherry, blueberry and coffee notes, and the fuller, anise scented Legaris Ribera del Duero Reserva 2004 ($25) with spicy dark cherry and plum, and some nice meaty notes in the finish.
From Italy, the value-priced, very fruity Castello Banfi Toscana Centine 2007 ($13) is a nicely structured bargain that has red cherry, berries and spice. Lighter in style than many other Malbecs is the Colores del Sol Malbec Reserva 2008 ($12). A great value, it has deep cherry, spicy currant and dark plum flavors with some smoke at the finish.
The peppery big fruit in Zinfandels makes them tremendously popular barbecue wines. Cardinal Zin Beastly Old Vines 2006 ($20) reveals jammy red fruit and peppery blackberry aromas and flavors, while the Simi Sonoma Zinfandel 2006 ($20) shows more dark fruit with some currant and sage notes. The vines that produce the tasty Sbragia Family Zinfandel Gino’s Vineyard 2006 ($24) were planted in 1959. This current vintage reveals complex tart cherry, pepper, smoky strawberry and blackberry flavors.
A fun way to appreciate the difference in the flavors of a wine from a single producer is to taste several bottles simultaneously. The reasonably priced 2006 Ravenswood Zinfandels were sourced from different locations in California. The Ravenswood Napa Zinfandel 2006 ($15) is typical in composition, with bright mouth-filling red and dark fruit including plum, blueberry and licorice. Blended with 12 percent Carignane and 5 percent each of Petite Sirah and “Mixed Blacks,” the Ravenswood Sonoma Old Vine Zinfandel 2006 ($18) is softer, but still bold, with jammy black plum, raspberry and vanilla flavors along with a bit more pepper and spice than the Napa version. The very big Ravenswood Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel 2006 ($15) contains 21 percent Petite Sirah, which adds to the spiciness and body. Firm but not strident, it has spicy red plum, blueberry and earthy boysenberry flavors.
David Stare’s Dry Creek Vineyards was the first winery to label a wine with the “Dry Creek” appellation in 1983, and the first to use term “Old Vines Zinfandel” in 1985. Stare makes some first-rate Sauvignon Blancs along with excellent Zins. Lush blueberry aromas from the Dry Creek Vineyards Sonoma Old Vine Zinfandel 2006 ($28) lead into rich dark cherry and spicy blueberry flavors with a bit of herb and vanilla. The single vineyard-sourced Dry Creek Vineyards Somers Ranch Zinfandel 2006 ($34) is a big wine for big food flavors. Firm, complex and full-bodied, it has licorice and dill well integrated into the intense raspberry, blackberry and dark plum flavors. Another more peppery offering from a single vineyard is the terrific, floral scented Dry Creek Vineyards Beeson Ranch Zinfandel 2006 ($34). Complex black cherry, blackberry, chocolate and raspberries progress into a pleasantly herbal long finish in this very food-friendly wine.