As summer 2021 approaches with its promise of the ease of quarantine restrictions, so do the wines with which we might enjoy that time. We’ve seen a ton of wines in the last 6 months or so, and with this list we’re cherry-picking our favorite bottlings that feel idea for warmer times. Ready to dig into to lighter — yet perfectly serious — sippers? Let’s get started!
1. 2017 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Meredith Estate – This single vineyard pinot noir from one of the masters of the grape is a near-perfect expression of pinot and one of the best wines of the last year. Rich with all manner of fruits and berries, it’s filled with cocoa notes that felt beautiful in the fall and which are sure to delight further come spring and summer. Rich yet balanced, it should hold up for a few years in bottle. $68
2. 2018 Donum Chardonnay Carneros “Year of the Dog” – If you like your chardonnay dialed back, Donum’s celebratory bottling is for you. This zippy number features grapefruit, lemon, and green apple, its creamier elements of nougat and coconut emerging more on the finish. Wonderfully balanced and a perfect choice for warmer months when you want something a bit more serious than pinot grigio. $65
3. 2012 Chene Bleu Abelard – 2012 is the currant vintage of this Rhone Valley blend of 85% grenache and 15% syrah. While that may sound like a winter-friendly wine, time has taken the edge off of this bottling, allowing notes of blackberry, tea leaf, and vanilla to meld with the currant-heavy core. Dry and toasty on the finish, it’s definitely on the big side but also fully approachable for a hearty summer picnic. $90
4. 2018 Marchesi di Grésy Barbera d’Asti DOCG – Big and fruity, this Italian bargain melds the punch of zinfandel with a tart, silky Burgundy body. Complex with notes ranging from fresh herbs to vanilla cream to a wall of baking spices, and an insanely good bargain – the best value wine on this list. $19
5. NV Hey French 1st Edition – A wacky blend of Italian grapes from four different vintages in the mid-2010s, this expressive bottling looks unserious (and is indeed a joke intended to mock France) but is actually quite a delightful and complex wine, lightly aged and bursting with tangerine, quince, green banana, and spice. $40
6. 2018 Schloss Johannisberg Silberlack Riesling Trocken – Good Riesling is easy to come by. Great Riesling is another thing altogether. This dry offering pops with fresh apricot and peach notes, with citrus acidity and a floral note on the finish. Beautifully balanced and enduring with a wide range of exotic flavor notes. $90
7. 2013 Cotes de Ciel Merlot Ciel du Cheval Vineyard – This Washington-born bottling will change your expectations of merlot, gorgeous with notes of black cherry, violets, chocolate, and plump raspberries. Amazingly, 2013 is the current vintage, which means that you don’t have to do the hard work of letting it mellow in the cellar: It’s ready to go today. $50
8. 2018 Rodney Strong Vineyards Chalk Hill Estate Chardonnay – This gently oaked chardonnay recalls a solid white Burgundy, with apples, pears, banana, and baking spice propping up the creamy, vanilla-scented body with a ton of fruit. The reasonable price tag seals the deal and makes this a no-brainer pick for summer. $22
9. 2018 Nik Weis St. Urbans-Hof Wiltinger Kabinett – Another fine Riesling on our list, only this one won’t set you back nearly as much as the above entry. It’s a surprisingly tropical wine, evoking tiki at some times with a smattering of spices in the mix. Another great value bottling on the list. $20
10. 2018 Gary Farrell Pinot Noir Russian River Selection – You can’t go wrong with Gary Farrell’s 2018 Russian River pinot, which takes the typically brooding character of the Russian River and tempers it with lots of fresh cherry, blueberry, and cranberry notes. $45
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