It's time to do a column on "beat the heat" wines of summer. As I write this, it's 100 degrees out, and folks are grilling meats and veggies outdoors and tossing cold, refreshing salads created from their garden. Let's look at some cooler wine selections to go with these tasty summer offerings.
One of the great things about the 2013 wine scene is that there are quite literally thousands of wines to choose from.
Salads: Cold seafood salads are making a huge comeback. Crab and shrimp, of course, are the mainstay of many seafood salads, and the wine choices are varied and delicious for these beauties. One has to be careful to regulate the "heat," as paprika, black or white pepper, mustard, garlic and Asian spices can detract from delicate white wine offerings. The spicier the salad, the bolder the wine must be to cut through the spice cover.
I love spicy protein salads made with seafood and/or chicken, and for these my wine of choice is a dry gewürztraminer. These wines, as long as they are dry, can go neck and neck with some pretty hot seasonings. Choose something from Oregon or France whose alcohol level is higher than 12.5 percent but below 14.5 percent. Any higher, and the heat from the alcohol will bind with the heat from the cuisine and lose that thirst-quenching effect you are looking for. Stay away from any label that says "late harvest" or indicates sweetness for these salads.
Grilled red meat: In the heat we need to go lighter, especially if you will be eating outdoors and away from the air conditioner. My choices are Oregon pinot noir of the more delicate styles with lower alcohol levels. Choose wisely and stick with under 14 percent alcohol. Beaujolais from France, the lighter but complex villages wines or one of the lighter grand cru such as Brouilly will do the trick. From the Veneto, two choices come to mind: Valpolicella and Bardolino, both of which are lighter-styled red wines. Bardolino, as it is less fruity and lighter on the palate, would do just fine. I think that with grilled veggies, these choices would be equally wonderful, especially with meaty portobello mushrooms or firm tofu. Again, the less the spice, the greater the chance of the wine coming up to meet the palate and not be overshadowed.
Chicken and pork: I sometimes drink white wine with grilled pork chops when it is quite warm outside, especially if there is a large presence of rosemary in the cuisine. The white wine of choice is a creamy, dry, palate-weighty pinot blanc with a touch of oak. My favorite comes from Chalone in California. I have never been disappointed in Chalone's heady offerings and find with grilled lighter meats, this wine — in fact, this varietal — can do marvels. Pinot blanc is truly underrated in the scope of white wine varietals.
Of course, in our area, we are blessed with delicious pinot gris, viognier and chardonnay from throughout the state. My suggestion is to visit wineries this summer and taste the chilled white and rosé offerings and see whether you don't come home with some real winners.
Lorn Razzano is former owner of the Wine Cellar in Ashland and still works there part time. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.