WASHINGTON — Summer is slowly winding down. The days are growing shorter and soon the warm summer days will give way to leaves changing color from green to amber to brown and cotton sheets replaced by down comforters on the bed.
More importantly, the psychological re-entry into the first regular workweek after summer requires a smooth and gentle approach. It calls for the perfect Labor Day wine.
But just because the calendar is winding its way towards cooler weather, Labor Day does not always mean that the warm temperatures and palatable humidity got the memo. As in years past, the heat has not quite receded into distant memory.
And since I am not quite ready to put away the barbecue tongs, I want a wine that can tame the grill as well as soothe the palate. So I tend to opt for a variety of wines that represent the season — including dry to off-dry white wines to chill out on the deck with, as well as fun red wines that pair well with good old-fashioned grilled fare.
Here are a few versatile wines that are tasty, seasonally appropriate and go with everything from fish to ribs. They’ll heighten the flavors of seasonal cooking and give one last sentimental toast to summer.
I love to begin every celebration — even if we’re celebrating the end of summer — with bubbles. The Non-vintage Chevalier Brut Cremant de Bourgogne from the Burgundy region of France is a great way to get the weekend heading right direction. The term “Cremant” is used to designate sparkling wines made by the Méthode Champenoise but not within the proper boarders of the Champagne region. This straw gold sparkling wine has a bouquet of honeysuckle and acacia and flavors of crisp apples, apricots and hints of honeyed oranges. The combination of tight bubbles and abundant acidity cleans and refreshes the palate, sip after sip, getting the tongue properly ready for appetizers, including chips and guacamole. $20
If you still have one foot planted in summer, then the 2017 Miles From Nowhere Sauvignon Blanc Semillon from the Margaret region of Western Australia is a perfect wine for the occasion. The blending of these two varietals presents a wine that is a bit softer than a traditional sauvignon blanc, with more emphasis on fruit than finish. The fragrant nose features scents of tropical fruit and lemon-lime that also show up on the palate, where they are joined by flavors of honeydew melon and peach. The wine has a nice balance between acidity and fruit with a slightly softer finish featuring lingering notes of citrus and minerals. Throw a few shrimp on the barbie and enjoy. $13
If you think that Labor Day signals the start of fall, then you’re probably looking forward to having a fun red wine to pair with grilled meats, like the 2015 Federalist Bourbon Barrel-Aged Zinfandel from Mendocino County in California. This big zin is aged in charred bourbon barrels. A blend of 94 percent Zinfandel, 3 percent Petite Sirah and 3 percent Merlot, this wine features beautiful aromas of blackberry, forest floor, vanilla and toasty oak. In the mouth, the wine offers up flavors of ripe black cherries, dark plums and blueberry liqueur on the palate. It’s aged in oak barrels formerly used to age bourbon, so there is just a touch of smokiness on the finish that melds perfectly with the black pepper notes. A perfect accompaniment with either burger or steak. $20
And if you’re looking to keep the peace in your family this holiday weekend, why not chose something in between, like a Pinot Noir? The velvety texture of the 2016 Testarossa Pinot Noir from the Santa Lucia Highlands of California is a great choice. It has a wonderful nose of strawberry, black plums and graphite followed up with delicate flavors of red cherry, wild strawberry, baking spices and violets. The sweet tannins and abundant acidity provide lovely structure and balance. $40