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Wine of the week: Summer sippers from California and France

Most rosé wines have wonderful berry/cherry flavors and enough structure to compliment a wide variety of summer foods, from barbequed chicken to grilled shrimp. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

WASHINGTON — Now I know why this time of year is called the “dog days” of summer — because right now, the weather in Washington feels like living in the mouth of a dog.

Good thing I have a supply of crisp, refreshing wines to tame the simile beast.

The requisite summer wine should have enough fruit to keep up with summer foods and enough acidity to keep it light and refreshing. After all, the acidity is responsible for the clean, fresh finish that dries your palate and whets your appetite. For me, rosé wines and sauvignon blancs can cut through a Washington summer like a presidential motorcade through rush hour, and both have arrived on the summer scene just in time to provide relief from the heat and the humidity.

While it was not my original intention to select similar choices from California and France, it just turned out that both wine-growing regions offer up excellent choices for relief from the heat this summer.

I can’t think of any better way to beat the heat than with a glass of well-chilled rosé. Most rosé wines have wonderful berry/cherry flavors and enough structure to compliment a wide variety of summer foods, from barbecued chicken to grilled shrimp.

The 2016 Meiomi Rosé from California is made predominantly from pinot noir. This inaugural offering has a light salmon pink color, thanks to the minimal contact between the grape skins and the juice. Cold fermentation in stainless steel tanks keeps the wine delightfully dry. Delicate aromas of watermelon, orange peel and subtle hints of rose petal dance on the nose. The palate offers copious amounts of bright red strawberries, red plum and raspberries. The vibrant acidity keeps the finish light and bright. $19

Another excellent thirst-quenching wine hails from the birthplace of rosé; the South of France. The 2016 Chateau de Segries Rosé from the Tavel appellation in the southern Rhone region of France is made from a traditional blend of Grenache, cinsault, clairette and syrah. This wine mentally transports me back to Provence, with scents of lavender and red berries on the nose and fresh, bright notes of strawberries and cherries in the mouth. Hints of apricot add appeal on the sumptuous finish. $14

Like the aforementioned rosé wines, I tend to seek out summer white wines that see little or no oak during vinification or aging. Usually made and stored in stainless steel vats, these whites have pure, bright fruit flavors and ample acidity to refresh and cleanse the palate. Wonderful examples can be found throughout the winemaking world and can be enjoyed on their own or with a variety of seafood or Asian fare.

The 2016 Sterling Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc uses Napa Valley fruit that was harvested in the cool morning hours and sent directly to press at the winery. The grapes were fermented in 85-percent stainless-steel tanks to retain the bright fruit character and fresh acidity. The remaining 15 percent of the blend was barrel fermented in neutral French oak to impart weight and texture to the overall mouthfeel. It has lovely aromas of peach, nectarine and grapefruit on the nose and thirst-quenching flavors of ripe peach, grapefruit, melon and nectarines. The crisp acidity is in perfect balance with the slightly creamy mouthfeel and notes of zesty lemon and lime carry through on the tangy finish. $20

Many wine consumers know that the only two wine varietals that are grown in the Burgundy region of France are pinot noir and chardonnay. Not so fast — there is a tiny area around the village of Saint-Bris-le-Vineux, a few miles southwest of the Chablis region, where sauvignon blanc is the star of the vineyard. The 2016 Saint Bris Ica Onna is worth hunting down. The nose is bursting with scents of grapefruit, mandarin orange and ripe peach. Flavors of summer stone fruit — nectarine and peach — are highlighted by notes of pear and orange clove. The wonderfully complex finish is accented by abundant acidity and hints of salinity and spice. Best of all, this wine can be enjoyed young or saved for a future summer outing. $17

 


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