I only have two rules when it comes to summer wines. First, they must be food- friendly—which I prefer in all of my wines, actually. It’s rare that I drink wine in place of a cocktail or a beer, by itself. But I also demand that any wine I’m going to drink in the warm summer months be refreshing rather than heavy or flabby. That means lower alcohol over higher, but also acidity over intense tannins.
It is also important to think about what you might be eating with these wines. Roasted Montauk bluefish probably wants a different wine than a grilled lamb chop.
Oh, and if I am eating something off of a smoker or a grill, that’s one time where I like a little overt toasty oak to pull it all together. So I guess that’s two-and-a-half rules.
Long Island wines, generally speaking, aren’t cheap. These are small-production, artisanal products—not mass-produced wine-like products. But just because they aren’t cheap doesn’t mean that there aren’t affordable wines that over-deliver at every price point.
In fact, I’d argue that Long Island has some great values unless you only drink wines that cost $10 or less.
I tend to not pull the high-end wines from my cellar much in the summer either. We entertain a lot in the warm months and like to have affordable wines on hand to serve a crowd. With that in mind, here are three white wines and three reds that I’ll be drinking this summer—all for between $13 and $22 per bottle:
My wife and I drink a lot of local sauvignon blanc in the summer and for the money, it’s hard to beat Osprey’s Dominion’s 2012 Sauvignon Blanc ($15). Zesty and fresh, it’s equally at home by the pool or with simply prepared (even raw) local seafood.
Pinot Grigio is the go-to wine for many wine drinkers—at least in my circle of friends—so put down the Cavit this summer and drink Suhru Wines 2012 Pinot Grigio ($16) instead. It’s straightforward, snappy and citrusy—a wine to enjoy rather than contemplate.
Given co-owner David Page’s past life as a chef in Manhattan, it should come as no surprise that Shinn Estate Vineyards 2012 Coalescence ($17) is exceedingly food friendly and versatile. This blend of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and riesling is fruity and refreshing.
Don’t think there are any good local reds under $15 (admittedly, there aren’t many)? Check out Macari Vineyards NV Collina Merlot ($13). By blending wines from a few recent vintages, winemaker Kelly Urbanik is able to create an affordable red, which delivers complex notes of mint and tobacco mingling with ripe red fruits.
I love peppery—black, not green—red wines with grilled meats, which is why Channing Daughters Winery 2010 Due Uve ($22) makes this list. It’s 84% syrah, which brings that spiciness. Burgers? Lamb? Barbequed chicken? Yes, yes and yes.
A well-marbled steak with a nice char on the outside requires a red with a bit more tannin—without going over the top—and a bit more oak character. Enter Pellegrini Vineyards 2007 Merlot ($20), a benchmark merlot at the price.