Touring & Tasting
October 5, 2013 | Touring & Tasting

An End of Summer Wine Tasting Menu

wine tasting partyThe end of Summer is a great time for quiet, reflective celebrations, reunions and get-togethers. Invite some friends over for an afternoon or an evening on the patio or around the table and reminisce. Celebrations that involve travel are always going to invite re-collections. Remember all those drives to college? Who else was there? Every rest stop on the highway can spark a new memory and ideas of what we thought might happen.

Make your wine tasting a tribute to all of that, to how things turned out, and to how we hoped they'd turn out and of course, to the memories themselves.

Afternoons Together

For afternoons, fresh Mozzarellas, a Crescenza or Stracchino cheese, served with warm focaccia, or a similar light bread, will highlight a young, delicate cheese. Some olive oil, Italian style, paired on the side can also be invigorating.

For wine, a Riesling like the 2004 Daniel Schuster Hull Family's Late Harvest makes for a pure and different kind of afternoon. As New Zealand wines go, this one is bright, but a variety of Rieslings from Germany and similar locations in Europe should make for a refreshing, lighthearted afternoon. There are also some standout Rieslings from United States vintners including Shady Lane Cellars, Trisaetum, and Chateau Grand Traverse.

If you'd like to serve a Camembert or Brie with a harder, crustier bread, then opt for something closer to the 2012 Niepoort Docil Vinho Verde. Younger wines can go well with cheeses and breads that are more traditional and a bit longer on flavor and aroma.

Truly die-hard friends, though, are going to call for something more ribald. A Merlot will provide enough drama to accompany the brie, and bring things full square to your old college ways. Try the 2010 Duckhorn Napa Valley Merlot or a 2009 from Mission Hill. Either is robust, not overly concentrated, and give you a wide range of fruits, flavors and memories. There are a wide variety of great merlots coming out of Washington state these days that are well-worth a look.

If you're serving a more festive cheese – say a Manchego or a Feta cheese – then a Zinfandel, say the 2008 Carlisle Vineyard, Russian River Valley Zinfandel – is going to be up to the fête. You get plenty of nose, but with the occasional hint of bitter chocolate, candied flowers and white pepper. The finish is energetic as is the acidity. Lively, it should carry your cheese along well, too. Wineries located in Lodi, CA are a terrific place to look for stellar Zins.

If you're afternoon patio party really is turning as emotional as those long drives and the dormitory reunions and heartbreaks, try a Zinfandel more apt to inspire confidence and resolve. Something like 2006 Rosenblum Cellars Monte Rosso Vineyard Reserve Zinfandel! As Wine Spectator put it: “...bold berry and roasted dill aromas and racy black cherry, sage and licorice flavors that finish with rustic tannins,” it's a Zinfandel fit more for the resolution of challenge rather than conquest and adventure. 

Warm Indian Summer Evenings to Highlight Your TasteSeptember Wine Tastings

Suppose your old college buddies - and newer work colleagues - maybe even some family - are arriving after five. The early evening hours are often more flooded with potential, and less with recollection.  If things are going dark, some candles kept at the ready, and a spare wrap, say a decorative blanket, by the patio door makes an exceptionally nice gesture if things get cool.  

If you're not serving dinner, some hardier aged cheeses - like a Gruyere or a good medium cheddar will go exceptionally well with a Chardonnay. Try the 2010 Bret Brothers Vire-clesse La Verchere for full body and a good citrus. It's possibly as complex as you and your friends.

Prefer a Chardonnay with a but more fruit? The moderately-oaked 2009 Dierberg from the Santa Maria Valley is widely hailed, racy and bears some spice in addition to heavy doses of orchard fruit. But we're always happy to talk about Chardonnay. 

If your guests need a European wine to be wowed, and some of them will, a bit later bring out the 2001 Lopez De Heredia Vina Tondonia Reserva Rioja Tempranillo. Aged, dramatic and graceful it will still go well with the cheddar well and keep conversation going prior to a late dinner. Riojas can be exceptionally warm wines.

Phenomenal Chardonnay wines that are also worth a look are from Grgich Hills (where Mike Grgich crafted the Chardonnay that beat the best white wines in France in the now-famous 1976 Paris Tasting), an intensely aromatic offering from Harney Lane, and Wente Vineyards' buttery Riva Ranch.

For the adventurous friends and those who've driven long and far, breaking out a blue-veined cheese, either a Danish Blue, an exotic cambozola or a gorgonzola can make for a  magnificent evening. See this exciting combination of blue cheese with blackberries. Now that's a party in itself. If the blackberries aren't easily at hand, walnuts go well and some heartier wheat crackers and other fruit, say sliced peaches or grapes will top things off.

Now to accompany all of that conversational, pungent and earthy blue you'll need a magnificent – but moderate – red. Think fruity and spicy with low tannins.  The 2007 Bodegas Caro Malbec- Cabernet Sauvignon is a standout.  Any number of Malbecs could also fill the bill quite nicely and we would be remiss not to suggest taking a Rodney Strong Malbec or Malbec blend for a spin.

Don't let the change of seasons slip by. Just because it's not much talked about as a get-together time of year, it’s still always a good time for series of memories. The turn toward Fall will be just as bright and beautiful as you remember, but then, remembering could be reason enough to celebrate.   

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This article was written by James Tomon.


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