Wine drinking in summertime Seattle has come to be dominated by rosé, and in many ways that’s fine: Rosé can be delicious. Yet, by and large, rosé is halfway wine: neither red nor white, and often made not for its own merits, but as a by-product of red-wine production. Though of course there are exceptions, the number of serious rosés out there is still awfully small. Hence, here are 10 wines to drink this summer that will go just as well with sunshine and blue skies … plus offer a whole lot more taste than your typical bottle of pink.
White wine is the natural starting point, because cold and crisp are perhaps the two necessary elements of any great summertime sip. To get things started, I love the EFESTE “Feral” sauvignon blanc, which shows the tart grapefruit and fresh-cut grass notes the grape is known for, while pairing it with the crisp minerality you get from the limestone soils of the Ancient Lakes AVA. If you like the flavors of sauv blanc but want a bit more body and complexity, the Buty White, a Bordeaux blend of sauvignon blanc, sémillon, and muscadelle, offers notes of lemon curd and hints of white flowers to round things out.
Stepping into uncharted territory a bit, we get to four varietals and producers that I think could define summers in Seattle to come. The Orr chenin blanc pulls from some wonderful old vines, producing wines of great concentration that still taste youthful and zesty. One of my favorite summer treats is grilled stone fruits like peaches and apricots, and this wine works gorgeously with them, playing off the smokiness and sweetness exceptionally. If grilled veggies are more your style, the WT Vintners grüner veltliner is just the wine, with aromatic notes of white pepper and savory green herbs. It even works with the notoriously wine-unfriendly asparagus we grow to such great effect here. With a picnic, look for Kerloo Cellars’ grenache blanc, which has just the slightest touch of bitterness to contrast cured meats and cheeses. Lastly, for just a whole lot of fun, there’s the Pour Me White, a second label from àMaurice Cellars that’s 100 percent viognier: ripe without being unctuous and floral without being cloying. It’s my favorite wine to sip in the backyard, with the bees buzzing and the sound of someone else mowing their lawn.
Sadly, red wine often goes neglected during the summer, because big and heavy reds just don’t taste all that great on an 85-degree day. So here’s what I do: drink lighter reds, and drink them chilled. Cabernet franc is one of the best varietals for that: somewhat fruity, with higher levels of acidity and lots of texture that comes across even chilled. The offerings from both Memaloose and Savage Grace offer notes of plum and dark cherry, along with the scent of herbs like rosemary and sage. If you want something more exotic, consider a cousin, the El Corazon carménère, which is slightly bolder but also more rustic. Or take a trip back into Washington’s past with the Two Mountain lemberger, a spicy and savory varietal that originated in Austria and was planted in the early days of Washington viticulture, when growing red grapes was considered risky, if not downright insane.