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Posted by Robert Whitley on June 25, 2015 at 12:53 PM

Al Fresco Wining

Having just celebrated the summer solstice, I now look forward to the pleasure of dining al fresco over the next few months. To many, that also means wining al fresco.

While there are no hard and fast rules for this sort of activity, there are a few tried and true suggestions to enhance the experience.

My fondest al fresco wining memories are from a trip many summers ago through the south of France. Lunch under an umbrella outside was almost a requirement. Few restaurants had air conditioning, so dining inside given the heat and humidity wasn't an appealing option.

One particularly sweltering afternoon in Grasse, I chose to visit the outdoor section at La Bastide Saint Antoine. Nearly every table was taken — it seemed the entire village was taking the afternoon off — and virtually every table was festooned with ice buckets and bottles of the local rose wine.

Americans have an irrational fear of rose, heightened, I suspect, by the belief that all pink wine is sweet and cloying, hardly a good match with most food. The truth, of course, is that most rose is either dry or slightly off-dry, and there is hardly a better match with summer picnic fare such as cold chicken, smoked salmon or cold pasta salads.

I have been a convert ever since. Rose purists will argue that dry rose wine is a year-round beverage, and they would be right. However, its greatest appeal is on a steamy day in the dead of summer. So my No. 1 suggestion is crisp, dry rose wine for delicious refreshment in the middle of a heat wave.

No. 2 is the tip that the ice bucket is your best friend. You already knew that, right? Except that I'm talking about putting your red wines on ice. Reds served warm often show their rough edges, with the tannin and the alcohol taking over from the fruit. That's a recipe for making your reds taste harsh and bitter.

Ice the bottles for 15 minutes on a warm day, and you will notice a dramatic difference in the level of pleasure your reds deliver.

Finally, focus on lighter whites and reds because they will refresh more than heavier, more complex wines that generally have more alcohol and/or tannin. This is the time to drink easy whites such as pinot grigio, muscadet and sauvignon blanc and less challenging reds such as beaujolais, rioja crianza and Rhone-style red blends. But when in doubt, do not fear the rose!

Cadaretta, Columbia Valley (Washington) “Windthrow” 2012 ($50)
Cadaretta really hits their stride in their blending of varieties.  I'm a huge fan of their “SBS” (Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon) bottling, and this SGM (Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre) blend is a worthy stable mate.  It shows real elegance and depth, with no one element shouting for attention.  Blackberry, tar, vanilla, leaf, brown spice and a touch of pie crust are all presented in a dry, food friendly package.  Beef, birds, lamb -- lots of pairing possibilities here.  Contains 56% Syrah, 25% Grenache and 19% Mourvedre.
93 Rich Cook

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This Issue's Reviews
 
Pinots You Should Know
Linda Murphy

When we last left Bob Cabral a year ago, he was about to embark on his 17th and final vintage with Pinot Noir powerhouse Williams Selyem, located in Sonoma County's Russian River Valley AVA. At the time, Cabral said he needed a change, wanted new challenges, but was not specific. Six months ago, Three Sticks Winery owner Bill Price announced that Cabral would direct winemaking at the Sonoma-based winery, working with his longtime winemaker, Don Van Staaveren. Cabral handles the Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, Van Staaveren the Cabernets.
Oregon, Home of Fine Wines…Especially Pinots
Ed McCarthy

It has occurred to me that Oregon really specializes in fine wines. Oregon is not the place to look for under $12 wines, readily found in the other big-production wine states, such as California, Washington, and New York. But neither is Oregon the place to look for prestigious 'status' wines costing well over $100, such as you can easily find in Napa Valley. Oregon's most famous and highest-production wine, Pinot Noir, primarily ranges in price from $25 to $55, with many falling in the $35 to $45 price tier, and with a few Reserve Pinot Noirs over $55.
Wine With
WINE WITH…Susan's Crab Cakes


Crab cakes are to the mid-Atlantic region what gumbo is to Louisiana or lobster rolls are to Maine. Around here (we live in Baltimore) you can find crab cake sliders or burgers, crab cakes with curry sauce or Hollandaise, crab cakes doused in marinara sauce (mama mia!), and pretty much anything else you can imagine. Some of these preparations can be quite good, but for us, the best crab cake is usually the simplest one. To pull this off, the crabmeat must be pristinely fresh, the "filler" (bread or cracker crumbs) kept to a minimum, and the seasonings added with a very light hand. Our friend Susan, who is not only a University of Maryland law professor but who also makes the best crab cakes around, shared her recipe with us. "It's the classic mid-Atlantic crab cake recipe'" she says. "The key is to not weigh them down with a lot of different ingredients and to be sure and refrigerate them before you cook them." The beauty of this recipe is that chilling them helps the mixture stick together without having to use a lot of mayonnaise, egg, or other binder.
On My Table
An Island of Tradition in a Sea of Chianti Classico Change
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

I have many favorite Chianti Classico wines. One that has remained a constant on my list for all my years of tasting is La Selvanella, the single-vineyard Chianti Classico Riserva that is the flagship wine of the Melini winery. Through all the changes that Chianti Classico has undergone over the past three decades -- clonal research and replanting, for example, the trend toward inclusion of international varieties to complement Sangiovese and what seems now to be the reversal of that trend, the use of French oak barriques for aging, and so forth -- La Selvanella today remains essentially the same as it was since Melini made the first wine in 1969.