Just as the thermostat begins to climb into triple digits around California, life slowly resumes, and people begin to reveal their sweet wine tattoos (are they sweet? Anyone? No? Just me? Ok…), an important question appears:
“What to drink to catch a buzz and cool off in this damn heat?”.
For a lot of people these days, this means picking up a case of alcoholic La Croix (hard seltzers), or some America Water (Bud Light) and that’s just fine and dandy. But for those of us who want a little bit more flavor, wine is still the staple beverage for summer.
In order to give you a little insight into what kind of vino would work perfectly in the sweltering heat of the summer months, we decided to pick a few of my favorite Sonoma County wineries that specialize in delicious, easy-drinking summer wines. We are based in Sonoma, so giving local wineries a shout out just makes sense, ya know?
For obvious reasons, Lucky Rock is excluded here, although our Pinot Noir does make #3 on the Drinkhacker list of “Best Summer Wines of 2020”(https://drinkhacker.com/2020/04/07/the-top-10-wines-for-summer-2020/).
The wineries are arranged randomly, all sourced from sustainable vineyards, and practice sustainable wine making. More importantly, they make some delicious, easy-drinking wine.
Pax Winery (Sebastopol/ Russian River Valley)
It is safe to say that when it comes to Syrah and sustainable wines, Pax Mahle is one of the gurus. His approach to the rich, deep-colored varietal is a fantastic example of what California Syrah can be. But in this case, it is the other grapes that take the focus. In addition to the classic “big bold n’spicy Syrah”, Pax does a fantastic line of obscure wines like Vermentino (white) Gamay, Freisa, Charbono (red), and Trousseau Gris (pink) - all of which are fresh, bright, and able to be served chilled. Sure, all these grape names sound like words we just made up (and maybe we did) but don’t let their esoteric nature scare you; these wines are worth venturing out of the comfort zone for.
Highlight 2019 Trousseau Gris $28: This blush wine (some may call rosé) is a true standout. Fresh watermelon & strawberries are the dominating flavors, with fantastic acidity and minerality on the palate. Grab a bottle or a growler on tap. Whatever you prefer. See Pax here
Horse & Plow (Sebastopol/Russian River Valley )
To really experience this awesome, small, family-owned winery, you should check out their property just outside of Sebastopol. There is a real farmyard vibe to the place, with chickens, cats, and other small animals roaming wild. Chris and Suzanne are excellent winemakers, sourcing grapes and apples from all sustainable vineyards in Sonoma, Napa, and Mendocino counties. Their wines, both red and white, are exceptionally light on the palate and go down smooth. Their apple ciders, made using heirloom apples, are full of flavor and fully dry, way different from those sugary ciders from the store. Oh, and did I mention they do growlers of wine and cider? We like those!
Highlight: 2018 Pinot Gris$25: A grape that usually gets a bad rap because it is compared to the light watery bland Pinot Grigios that your mom drinks (and there is nothing wrong with that. Call your mother!) This Pinot Gris, however, is has a little bit more texture and flavor. Won’t dry your palate but has a bit more richness. Horse and Plow
Baletto Winery (Alexander Valley & Russian River Valley)
If you saw the Cellar Rats to Seller Rats Ep 2 (link here), you may know that we are fans of this winery, in Sonoma County. The Balletto family is one of the oldest wine families in the Russian River Valley and has consistently put out some great Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays, and Sauvignon Blancs. Maybe their label is a bit bland, but their wine is anything but. Even as prices go up for Pinot Noir in Sonoma County, Balletto still puts out a terrific blend Pinot that is both complex and smooth.
Highlight:2017 RRV Pinot Noir: $29 Pretty classic cherry cola & baking spices profile, a traditionally traditional Russian River Pinot. If you can’t get Lucky Rock, get this!
Check them out here.
Bodkin Wines (Healdsburg)
This winery is certainly a gem to be discovered for your collection of easy-drinking bubbles. Started by Chris Christensen and Andrew Chambers, Bodkin’s motto has always been to work hard and make affordable and delicious wine, making them our brothers in arms. A traditionalist might look down at an idea of a sparkling Sauvignon Blanc, but these guys did it fist and hit it out of the park. The classic fruit and grassy notes of the Sauvignon Blanc and effervescence sound like a damn good combo to us. Keep killing it, guys.
Highlight: Blanc de Sauvignon Blanc$25: It’s awesome being first. Is this Sauvignon Blanc sweet? No. Is it fruity? Hells yeah! With 11.5% alcohol, this bubbly Sauvignon Blanc is perfect for spritzers, mimosas, or just fine on its own- and you can sip in sessions at a low alcohol like 11.5%.
Check them out here.
To wrap this up in a nice little bow, Summer is ideal for wine. Even more importantly (due to current, let's say, not fun events) this summer, it's important to support the small winemakers. Your Meiomis and La Cremas won't go anywhere, but your "mom & pop" operations might. So to make a real difference in people's lives, pick up a bottle (or case) or your favorite small winery (it could even be Lucky Rock, fingers crossed- at $17-$22/btl is shouldn't break the bank) and help small businesses stay afloat. Ok, We're off our soapbox now. Cheers!