While we’ve all been staying at home more, a lot of us have set some goals. Some have fitness goals. Others are baking up delectables in the kitchen. Others are working on home projects, organizing all the things, or working in the garden. (And, hopefully all of us are doing this.)
It’s been interesting to see what people have done in this crazy and challenging time. In our house we’ve been doing a lot of the above, but I’ve also been taking time to explore my horizons when it comes to wine. I often reach for my go-to faves when wine shopping (I’m looking at you, crisp and affordable Sauv Blanc from Marlborough), but as I begin to learn more and more about wine, the more I want to explore. New regions! New varietals! New wineries! And, now more than ever, black-owned wineries (this is a great list of who to support).
With all that in mind, here are seven bottles I’ve tried this summer.
1. House of Mandela Thembu Tribute Sauv Blanc
I picked this bottle up at Trader Joe’s, and talk about a great wine for the money! Less than $10, it was crisp and refreshing with notes of pineapple, lemongrass, and papaya. And the backstory of it? Beautiful.
2. Vigna del Lauro Friuli Isonzo Cab Franc
I picked a bottle of this up for a good friend, and it came so highly recommended from my local wine store (shout out to Underdog Wine Co.!), that I had to get one for me to try, too, so that we could compare notes over Zoom. And, dude, it DELIVERED. Rich, fruity, and just damn delicious. I find cab franc to be such a beautiful grape when it’s done right, and this is done right. It’s a wonderful bottle for a late summer night.
3. Adelaida Anna’s Estate Vineyard Viognier
During our last trip to Paso Robles, we tasted at Adelaida and had the BEST experience. It was the last winery we went to on our trip and, sadly, we didn’t have room in our suitcase to buy and pack another bottle (or 10). I always regretted not taking some bottles back home though, so when the COVID-19 pandemic happened and the winery started to offer deals on bottles with free shipping, I was all in. We opened this bottle for Mother’s Day, and it was so balanced, smooth, and elegant. Truly, you can’t go wrong with anything from Adelaida. They’re all so nuanced and gorgeous.
4. The Clambake Limited Edition Rosé
Ripe Life Wines sent me a few bottles of The Clambake wines to try, and this rosé was my favorite by far. Made from old-vine carignan grapes from Mendocino, it’s dry with lots of strawberry, citrus, and a little cherry. And, yep, as the name suggests, it pairs great with a clambake.
5. Austin Hope 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon
Remember that trip to Paso I was just lamenting about? Well, one of the bottles we already had packed was this one from Austin Hope. It got rave reviews from all the wine press, and, let’s just say that it lived up to the 97-point and top-100-wines-of-the-year hype. It’s HUGE, with plenty of cherries and blackberries, but balanced with subtle notes of vanilla, cedar, and nutmeg. I love a big ol’ cab with a long and smooth finish that takes your tastebuds on a journey, and this one does that with nuance and complexity that unfolds sip after sip.
6. Scaia Rosato 2019
This is another bottle I picked up from Underdog Wine Co., and it was so lovely and different than most of the French rosés I tend to pick up (which, for the record, I also love). Out of Mezzane di Sotto, a commune in the Province of Verona in the Italian region Veneto, it’s made with 100 percent rondinella grapes and is a little fruity with some raspberries, but also a bit tangy. A super elegant rosé that’s corked with a glass plug!
7. Nighthawk Winery Make Me Blush
So, many times what makes a wine great is the actual, you know, wine. But other times, what makes a wine great is who you drink it with and where you are. And, after MONTHS of not seeing pretty much anyone due to COVID-19, we were able to spend a socially distanced afternoon at Nighthawk Winery’s outdoor grounds in Paola, Kan., with a few good friends, and it was like a hug to the soul. Yes, Kansas wine is still Kansas wine, but Nighthawk is one of our favorite spots that we can get to in just an hour’s drive and feels like wine country. Make Me Blush is a new offering for them, and it’s a little sweet, but the bubbles balance it out well.
What have you been sipping on this summer? —Jenn