Tahoe summer wine picks

Truckee summer concerts and vino with Keli Boston and Cam Shannon.

Every year your humble author internally debates: “Should I write another article about summer wines?” Well, with 2017’s mid-June temperatures in the 80s and the concert, beach and festival season growing by leaps and bounds, all cranial voices were singing in chorus: “Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes. The people need to know their best bets for summer sipping satisfaction.”

So tout suite, I set the wine-judging criteria, dialed up the wine crew and headed for High Sierra hot spots. The crew agreed that a truly great summer quaff must be crisp, clean, light on its feet and take to a chill like a bathing polar bear. Whether white, red or blush wine, we want low- to moderate-alcohol levels, refreshing mouth feel, a beam of energy to add to our own and deliciousness. Lastly, we decided that said vinos must be widely available so all can be purchased and enjoyed on the spur of the moment.

First to mind was New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. While there is no shortage of options from Kiwiland, our top pick is the always-loveable Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc. While the base-level offering is perfectly fine, we splurged a little bit and grabbed the small lot Spitfire version. Spitfire is the perfect moniker because it leaps from the glass and dances on the palate with energetic mandarin orange, stone fruits and a unique lick of slate-like minerality — a top pairing for light summer eats.

READ MORE: Try Lou’s picks for summer rosé

Staying in the white-wine category and knowing America’s favorite is Chardonnay, we sampled lighter un-oaked versions and our winner was the 2015 Lioco. The fruit for this wine is sourced from cool Sonoma vineyards and it features flavors of crisp Granny Smith apple and a beam of bright citrus. It was a runaway favorite among Chardonnays.

Next we were off to the land of red wines, specifically Pinot Noir. Many versions from warmer regions are a bit heavy for summer weather so it’s no surprise we again found our fave from the cool climate of New Zealand. The 2016 Jules Taylor Pinot Noir is light of body but packed with complex red fruits, a touch of earth and zippy acids. It is wonderful on it’s own and great for al-fresco dining.

There are many other summer-wine refreshers from the cooler parts of California, Italy’s mountain terroirs, Austria and Germany, as well as crisp bubblies from the world over. As always a good sourcing strategy is your local wine advisor. We are lucky to have knowledgeable, local wine wizards such as the folks at Uncorked of the Truckee, Tahoe City and Olympic Valley locations.

By the way, if you’re in the mood for summer rosé, check the Tahoe Weekly Web site for the blush feature a few issues back.

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Lou Phillips
Lou is a Level 3 Sommelier based on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe, who loves traveling the wine world doing research for his writing. He also consults for collectors and businesses buying and selling fine wine and creating special events.