So here's the story. Lately, red wines have been hogging the spotlight. Red Zinfandel got a whole column sometime back, and Cabernet Sauvignon's used its substantial muscle power to strong arm a few mentions as well. Not so for Sauvignon blanc, Riesling and Gewurztraminer, their fairer, more restrained cousins. These white wines have stood on the sidelines, waiting for their moments to shine. And with the sun doing just that, it's time for the wines of summer to cool our throats and soothe our backyard souls. Thankfully, we know which ones will do just that.
A good one to start with is the 2009 Magnolia Lane Sonoma Valley Kunde Estate Sauvignon blanc. This Kenwood, Californian, isn't grassy like a New Zealander, and neither is it overly acidic or rife with grapefruit overtones. Instead, this Winetree purchase hints at peaches, trends toward sweetness, offers up some minor acidity and yet finishes smooth. At 13.8 percent alcohol, it's not exactly a low-alcohol wine, but it is a lower dose of relaxation compared to its heftier cousins. And with grills aflame and umbrellas providing much-needed shade, it's just the thing to pour into your glass. $10-$19.99 range. Wine Spectator rated it an 86 out of 100.
Now if it's a bit too hot for you, and you'd rather avoid the grill and prepare your meal inside, then you may want to invite these two charming companions to your dinner table. We marinated two rainbow trout filets with lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, pepper and fresh thyme for several hours, then we dredged them in flour and pan fried them briefly in a mixture of butter and vegetable oil. The recipe it's loosely based on can be found via http://www.yummly.com/recipe/Lemon-Thyme-Rainbow-Trout-Recipezaar. Knowing lemon was going to be a prominent guest at the dinner table meant we needed a wine with some crispness or acidity. So we opened a 2007 Dr. H. Thanisch Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling from the Mosel Valley in the southwestern part of Germany. We'd had this bottle for a while, and we were waiting for a good dish to pair it with. The rainbow trout did not disappoint, and neither did the wine. We thought this German was crisp but not acidic, with traces of lemon and honey that were neither too sweet nor too tart. Plus, at 9 percent alcohol, this is a wine that's a great partner for all this summer heat. Sahara Mart in Bloomington, Ind. $20-$29.99 range. Wine Spectator gave this a 92 out of 100.
Another great Riesling that also happens to be from the Mosel Valley is the 2007 Graff Riesling Kabinett. This Winetree purchase was perfectly matched against a spicy Vietnamese dish I prepared called bun cha, which is basically ground pork patties blended with garlic chives, fish sauce, a homemade caramel sauce, and onions — which I then grilled. The sweet apple flavoring of this Riesling went hand in hand with the spiciness of the bun cha. In fact, this particular Riesling is marketed by Valckenberg, the oldest family owned wine merchant in Germany (or so their website says), as something that would go very well with spicy cuisine. This Riesling is only 8 percent alcohol. $10-$19.99 range. (The Dr. H. Thanisch Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling above is also owned by Valckenberg.)
Speaking of Asian cuisine, Gewurztraminer is usually a good pairing. Yeah, we have problems spelling and pronouncing it, too — but you don't need to do either to enjoy this, because Winetree carries several that are really worth trying. At least to me, Gewurztraminer on its own has the scent of lychees, and it's a bit spicy. We bucked custom and did our own little taste test, pairing the 2006 Montinore Estate from Willamette Valley, Ore., with spicy andouille sausage from Pearson's Rivertown Butcher Shop. The wine was heavy on lemon and honey, and it's a definite food wine for full-flavored, fatty meats. 13.5 percent alcohol. About $17.
Another good Gewurztraminer is the 2009 Oliver Winery version. We got this Hoosier as a gift from our good friends Brian and Jennifer Fribley, and we paired it with some homemade curried chicken. Greg and I really liked how crisp and smooth this was, especially against the spicy curry. It also had a bit of lemon to the flavor. 12.2 percent alcohol.