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wine: Beat the Heat

What makes for a refreshing summer wine?

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Pedroncelli Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley, 2000, $11.
Sauvignon blanc is one of those ideal wines for summer, with its fresh fruit flavor combined with the zing of a little greenery in the flavor. While some Sonoma wineries participate in croquet, this place is still into playing bocce ball, a sport their founders imported from Italy almost a century ago. This is a no-frills, tasty sauvignon blanc with no oak aging. Try it with roast chicken and corn on the cob — lots of corn on the cob.

Allan Scott Sauvignon Blanc, N.Z., 2002, $10.
Seems lately that you can’t breathe sauvignon blanc without the words New Zealand coming to mind. This is grapefruit and kiwi, or better yet, it is cold pasta salad or cold fruit salad.

Ch. St. Jean Gew�rztraminer, Sonoma, 2002, $13.50.
The pleasantest thing about this gew�rztraminer is that it represents the new, toned-down flavors that a winery can get from this grape. Try it with a cold Thai salad on a hot day. Or with a fruit salad of mango and papaya. The good thing here is that the mango and papaya are in the salad and not in your glass.

Adelsheim Pinot Blanc, Oregon, 2002, $15.99.
This is the finest Adelsheim pinot blanc ever. The grape is the complete opposite of gew�rztraminer, kind of like a lighter Alsatian pinot gris. Chicken marinated in lemon, with a lemon sauce is ideal here. Subtlety is what this wine is about.

Castano Rosé, Monastrell, 2000, $6.
This summer look for fresh and refreshing Spanish rosés. Juicy and delicious, they aren’t at all like white zinfandels. Their lack of sweetness is compensated for with their utter fruitiness. A cold ham dish with this wine is spectacular.
A word about rosé: It used to be totally cheesy stuff, basically wines that no one wanted. The reason there are so many high-quality rosés today is the use of a wine-making technique called saignee. It is the transfer of a very young red wine from the tank, allowing the remaining wine to get more skin contact, color and body. The rosé is made from high quality juice.

Sterling Merlot, Central Coast, 2000, $12.
Usually the merlots of today are light in body, because the vine has been hastily planted over the past dozen years with yield more in mind than flavor. This wine is an excellent example of a wine that is made with more quality in mind than quantity. It has the plumy soft flavors of the grape, yet there is something at the end of it all. This is an excellent burger and tuna-steak merlot. It shows what merlot is supposed to taste like without spending a fortune.

Merlot can be your easygoing red for summer. You can serve it with a light chill, paired with juicy burgers. The bigger, richer burgers can be paired with grilled tuna steak or an actual steak. It needs to be a fuller merlot to work with a T-bone.

St Clement Merlot, Napa, 2000, $27.
Nothing less than your best steak for the grill will work here. St. Clement was the saint of stonecutters and mariners — so you can now safely build a grill on your boat. This is a wine that shows merlot at its most elevated. The juicy flavor isn’t cloying because there is a lot of natural acidity holding it all together. The finish lasts and lasts. Little did you know that you can dance on your boat with your steak and your glass of merlot. We tend to forget that there are so many good wines for summer. S

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