I love the soft, seductive wines of summer, wines that are lighter, less tannic, higher in acid, less oaky and lower in alcohol than the weighty wines of fall and winter. Yet selecting lighter-weight red wines for summer sipping can be tricky.

Share story

I love the soft, seductive wines of summer, wines that are lighter, less tannic, higher in acid, less oaky and lower in alcohol than the weighty wines of fall and winter.

Yet selecting lighter-weight red wines for summer sipping can be tricky. For summer red varieties from Washington state, lean toward the cooler-climate, fruit-driven wines such as pinot noir, lemberger or cabernet franc, says Shayn Bjornholm, a master sommelier and wine education director of the Washington Wine Commission. “They can even be served with a (very) slight chill and are clean, fruity and refreshing — all words we associate with summer.”

Because of their inherent char and smokiness, grilled foods also demand thoughtful wine pairing. Diane Morgan, the Portland-based author of “Grill Every Day” (Chronicle Books, $24.95) suggests, “First choose a quaffing wine, such as a rosé, for when everyone is standing around the grill. Then, move on to a wine that pairs nicely with the main course.

“I like sauvignon blanc or riesling with grilled fish or shrimp,” she continues. “Pinot noir can be perfect with grilled salmon or pork tenderloin with a fruit sauce. Big, bold, black-fruit-laden Walla Walla Valley red wines go well with grilled beef tenderloin or flank steak.”

My short list of seductive summer sippers, ranked from least to most intense, all attractively priced at $20 or and widely available at local stores or on the wineries’ Web sites, is guaranteed to brighten any summer day:


San Juan Vineyards 2007 Estate-Grown Siegerrebe (Puget Sound, $17). Siegerrebe, a Madeleine Angevine-gewürztraminer cross, is one of the Puget Sound appellation’s rising stars. This estate-grown bottling opens with delicate rose-petal aromas; continues with light, sweet-pear flavors in the mouth; then finishes with a one-two punch of tart grapefruit that goes on and on and on.

Snoqualmie Vineyards 2007 Naked Riesling (Columbia Valley, $10). Made by longtime Washington winemaker Joy Andersen from certified organic grapes, this all-around pleasing wine offers sweet honey and lush pear flavors in the nose and mouth, followed by a touch of sweetness and spice on the well-balanced finish. Go “bare,” if you dare, and enjoy in the hot tub.

Brandborg Vineyard and Winery 2006 OR Blanc Oregon white wine (Oregon, $14). An Alsatian-style white blend made of almost equal parts gewürztraminer, riesling and pinot gris, this highly aromatic, off-dry blend is loaded with flavors of rosewater and stone fruits backed by balanced acidity. Nicknamed the “perfect patio pounder.”


Eaton Hill Non-Vintage Sun Glow (Yakima Valley, $16). The sunny combination of riesling and nectarine juice from the winemaker’s 30-year-old trees leads to unmistakable aromas and fresh, juicy flavors of tree-ripened summer stone fruits reminiscent of peach pie in a bottle.

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2006 Nellie’s Garden Dry Rosé (Columbia Valley, $13). With lovely berry aromas and jammy flavors of strawberry, cherry and tart cranberry, this luscious syrah rosé is winemaker Bob Bertheau’s perfect “deck wine.” Think summer picnics and barbecues, too.

Hyatt Vineyards 2006 Black Muscat Rosé (Yakima Valley, $8). While enjoying this wildly aromatic wine on a picnic or patio, look for divergent aromas and flavors of strawberries and raspberries, cherries, tropical fruits, rosewater and white pepper, all expertly knit together in an off-dry style. A “wow” of a wine, especially at only eight bucks a bottle.


Willamette Valley Vineyards 2007 Whole-Cluster Fermented Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley, $19). Nicknamed “pinot noir candy” by winery founder Jim Bernau, this soft, round, juicy wine — rife with Bing cherry and strawberry flavors — becomes even more refreshing when chilled about half an hour before summer sipping.

Kiona Vineyards and Winery 2005 Lemberger (Red Mountain, $12). Made from the grapes of 30-year-old vines, this venerable wine opens with complex dark-berry aromas and flavors backed by feisty spice (cloves!) and peppery accents. Soft tannins and a velvety mouth feel raise the “yum” factor.

Abacela Vineyards and Winery 2005 Tempranillo Umpqua Cuvée (Southern Oregon, $20). This perfectly integrated tempranillo, a Spanish varietal that has found safe haven in Roseburg, Ore., displays an armada full of lush, dark-berry flavors and dusky leather and tobacco notes reminiscent of a Spanish sunset.

Sleight of Hand Non-Vintage “The Spellbinder” (Columbia Valley, $18). Sporting a magician on its label, this hypnotic blend of 42 percent cabernet franc, 29 percent cabernet sauvignon and 29 percent sangiovese will cloak you in luscious aromas and flavors of dark fruits, tobacco and vanilla. Its lingering finish is inescapably delicious.

Braiden Rex-Johnson is the author of seven books, including “Pacific Northwest Wining & Dining,” and is food-and-wine-pairing columnist for Wine Press Northwest magazine. Visit her online at www.NorthwestWiningandDining.com.

Grill Every Day Spice Rub

Makes about 1 ¼ cups

Portland-based cookbook author Diane Morgan recommends dusting this “big-flavored spice blend” on shrimp, scallops, chicken, beef, lamb, buffalo or pork before grilling.

¼ cup kosher or sea salt

2 tablespoons coarsely ground pepper

1 tablespoon ground coriander

3 tablespoons ground cumin

2 tablespoons sweet paprika

2 tablespoons dried thyme, crushed

2 tablespoons chili powder

¼ cup packed dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

In a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper, coriander, cumin, paprika, thyme, chili powder, brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir well to blend. Use immediately or transfer to a jar with a tightfitting lid and store away from heat and light for up to six months.

— “Grill Every Day: 125 Fast-Track Recipes for Weeknights at the Grill”