During the appetizer phase of our Memorial Day barbecue, we opened two lighter wines. They were so good they stayed with us during the evening, though several of our group did move on to to sturdier reds. To each his own.
The chilled-down white was J Vineyards & Winery's newly released Pinot Gris (California) 2010. From the first sip it was a stunner. The balanced blend of complex fruit flavors with acidity was exceptional — no weak-willed, toss-it-back wine was this. Its fruit was layered and palate-pleasing. In fact, this dry wine had the barest hint of residual sweetness (.50 percent) making it perfect with the spicy rub we used on pork spare ribs. (We did use a white wine baste for the ribs, not tomato- or chile-based, so this helped with the match, too.)
The grapes were fermented and cooled in stainless steel, and no malolactic fermentation went into the winemaking process.
The nose is has delicious hints of tangerine blossoms, while the first flavors to hit the palate are lime, vanilla and hint of honey. (The vanilla is the rich bean flavor, not the oak wood flavor.) We suggest buying it at the bargain price of around $16. In fact, buy two bottles, one for aperitif, and one to savor with Mexican food, spicy Thai or a grilled pork tenderloin with an Asian rub. J's Pinot Gris is worth every penny.
Sparkling rosé is de riguer in our house when we're hosting dinner or just a get-together with friends. I have my favorites, but this year's top, inexpensive pink bubbly is Segura Viudas Cava Brut Rosé.
Beautiful color, texture and flavor for this inexpensive sparkler.
A sparkling wine is always a treat as an aperitif, and goes well with many foods. If it's dry, with good acidity and some fruit flavors —and it costs around $8 a bottle (Twin Liquors) then it passes every point on my checklist. This wine, in fact, is our house wine for the summer.
As you pour this wine, nice and cold from the fridge, your first treat is the beautiful rose color. This Spanish answer to champagne has plenty of bubbles, which is what greets you on the first mouthful, along with just the right amount of acidity to carry the fruit and berry flavors. It doesn't fade on the back palate, as some rosé wines, even sparklers, can do. It carries. The finish is just long enough to let you savor the taste, then take another one.
It went with the ribs, by the way, but also went well with a pimento cheese dip and all the smoke-tinged food served from the grill that night. I won't say this is a great, or wildly complex wine. But it is a lovely thing in its own right, and at the price is absolutely one of the best buys out there.