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  • Writer's pictureAnnamarie Stedjan

Raise A Glass, Summer's Here At Last; Top Wine Picks You Have To Try This Summer

There's no doubt that most of my friends, family and followers know my love for wine! I love to cook with it, sip it, give it as name it! My favorite thing is sit back and relax at the end of the day with a glass... talk to my husband, read a book or magazine or even have a friend or neighbor over to chat and have a little adult time. If you are a wine lover like me and have tried your fair share of wines but are still looking for a favorite, or even if you are adventurous and would like to try something new, I have a few delectable bottles you might want to "sip into' this summer.

I was thinking about this journal entry and originally started to write about some festive 4th of July foods, but then I thought about doing something a little different. I scrapped my festive red white and blue thoughts and I decided to turn my focus from food to drink. So technically I stuck with the red and white theme but left the blue off on the sidelines. Sorry...

I truly love (almost) all varieties of wine. I am not particularly a sweet drinker so you won't find a pick for a Reisling or Port here, but I will offer up some reds and whites that are delicious and perfect to buy, to gift or most important, to sip! So often your pick of wine can enhance the flavor of your meal but there are SO many wines to choose from it can be quite overwhelming. I wanted to share with you this small list of some of my favorites alongside some ideas for what you might want to pair them with.

So if you are a red wine lover, there are a few delicious and quite reasonably priced options at the liquor store. Merlots are a smooth and velvety wine that pretty much go with everything. The flavors range from herbs and blackberries to cocoa and plums, even black cherry flavors. They are also finished off sometimes with notes of clover or vanilla, even cedar in older bottles that have been aged in oak. I feel like Merlots are the easiest on the palette and are widely enjoyed by both sweet and dry wine lovers alike. Two of my favorite Merlots that are extremely well priced and equally delicious are Blackstone and Bogle. Both of which can be found in the $10.00 price range. Merlots are really one of the only wines that tastes great with just about everything from a grilled steak, to a light chicken dish like one of the most popular recipes on my site, Chicken Sorrentina, to a quick and easy weeknight pasta dish. Even when entertaining, if you are not sure what type of wine people like to drink, Merlot is always a great red option.

Looking for something bold and rich with an acidic bite...then you want a Cabernet Sauvignon! The classic profile of this wine type is dense, dark and tannic. This full-bodied wine is the perfect accompaniment to a steak or lobster (or why not dinner, even this pasta dish of Rigatoni with Sausage and Basil in a Mustard Cream Sauce.

On the flip side of bold, dense and tannic, lies the slightly lighter red, Pinot Noir. I don't think this wine gets enough love, so I need to shout it out in this journal entry. With fruity notes of cherry and raspberry, earthy mushroom, spicy clove and flowery hibiscus, Pinot Noir lays in the medium-body category and is typically a dry wine with low tannins and acidity. My absolute favorite Pinot Noir is Angeline. This beauty is in the $15.00-$20.00 range and is the perfect summer red. It is light yet flavorful. It will satisfy the dark loving Cab drinkers as well as the white wine lovers. It is great with any seafood, chicken, or pasta dish. Even a stuffed pork chop or my recipe for Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas.

Now we get to the two reds I happen to love the most, Carménère and Malbec. Maybe you have heard of them, or maybe not. If you haven't heard of them or if you've never tried them must! These are a great varietal option from the popular Merlots and Cabs.

Carménère is a medium-bodied red and black berry flavored variety. Their dominate flavors are typically raspberry, plum and green bell pepper with hints of subtle vanilla and herbaceous green peppercorns. If I had to chose which wine it is most similar too, I would say Merlot. Easy on the palette and very versatile in pairings. Two of my favorite Carménère's are Anakena and Casillero di Diablo. Both can be found in the $12.00-$15.00 price range.

Malbecs are fantastic... boasting delicious flavors of plums, black cherries and blackberries with under notes of cocoa, mocha, black pepper and coffee. This is also a medium-bodied

wine with medium tannic and acidic tastes. It's smooth and fragrant and pairs well with dark meat poultry, roasted pork and leaner cuts of beef like sirloin, hanger or skirt steaks. If you choose to pair your Malbec with a pasta dish, pesto's are the way to go! Try out a glass of one of my favorite Malbecs with this Creamy Spinach Pesto. Some really reasonably priced Malbecs that I love are Kaiken or Trapiche both around $10.00 a bottle. If you want to splurge a little go grab a bottle of Mendoza Reserva which will cost around $20.00.

I know, I have been going on and on about all these different reds...its time to show the crisp, fresh and sometimes buttery whites some love. So here we go....

I feel like Pinot Grigio is always a good place to start. Not only is it great for sipping, it can bring flavor to so many dishes just be deglazing the pan with a splash of crispness and acidity. Stella Pinot Grigio as well as Cavit are light and refreshing with flavors of citrus and hints of green apple. They are both well-priced wines around $10.00 per bottle. If you are looking for something with a little bit more sweetness try Ruffino Lumina Pinot Grigio. Boasting tropical flavors like pineapple and subtle tastes of white peaches mixed with some florals and herb notes. This bottle will run you a little bit more topping out around $15.00.

Chardonnays! When it came to whites, I would always stick to a glass of Pinot Grigio because it felt safe. One day I decided to jump into Chardonnayland and I have found some really awesome ones along the way. Chardonnays have this wonderful pale to deep golden color, depending on its barreling process.

My absolute favorite Chardonnay I was introduced to just recently that is crisp refreshing and just delicious and has me hooked... Joel Gott's Chardonnay! It has this beautiful aroma of white peaches and honeysuckle (which remind me of my childhood in Rhode Island and my Aunt Rita's honeysuckle that grew ramped along the stone wall where it meets the was

always such an inviting smell). This Chard has hints of lemon and jasmine too and this great minerality to finish it off! I mean... yum! Perfect sip to go with a sushi dinner....need I say more.

On the other end of the Chardonnay spectrum is a deliciously deep golden colored wine with a rich creamy texture. Olema Chardonnay is a fantastic wine that pairs well with meaty fish like halibut or mahi mahi. This white even stands up to shellfish like lobster or crab. Both of these bottles will run you about $15.00 but they are SO sip-worthy.

So there is one more white category that I want to touch on, which is Sauvignon Blanc. This refreshing varietal is known for its super crisp taste due to its high acidity and low sugar content. Fun fact, Sauvignon Blanc actually means "Wild White" because it was named in the region where it grew wild, the Bordeaux region of France. "Sauvage" in French means wild, and well, blanc...I think we could all figure that one out. I love this wine just because of its name! But honestly this white is perfect to sip with a cheese platter, an appetizer like oysters (I'm not a fan, but I know many people are), any kind of dish with tangy dairy ingredients, pestos, mild vinaigrettes on a salad and so much more. An idea that just sprung to mind...take some lamb chops and make a marinade based with a little bit of plain greek yogurt, some lemon and fresh oregano. Let that marinate for hours and then grill them up! Serve it with a side of rice tossed in a herbed pesto and of course some tzatiki on the side for dipping....even some warm naan! Ok I'll stop... it is too early for me to be getting hungry for dinner. I got so wrapped up in my food thoughts that I almost forgot to give you my Sauvignon Blanc top pick! Here is it....lively citrus and refreshing crispness come together in this amazing bottle of Koha Sauvignon Blanc. This bottle from the Marlborough region of New Zeland will run you around $12.00, truly a reasonable price for such a sip-worthy wine.

I really hope you are having an amazing summer so far. We all really deserve it! I can't believe it is 4th of July weekend though. In any event, on your next trip to the liquor store take a trip up and down the aisles and see if you can spot some of these gems to try out this summer. You surely will be glad you did!


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