First Published in The Columbia River Reader June 2017. Read Marc’s latest article in the current issue of CRR free at locations around the greater Longview area.
There are three things you definitely need to do this summer to enhance your enjoyment of wine. Stock up on what I call summer fun wine, go to a summer concert at a winery, and share your wine discoveries with friends over an al fresco meal. Summer wine? A bit of a misnomer because I’m not familiar with any winemakers that set out to make wine only for summer consumption. There are some wines that do make sense as the weather improves and our cuisine becomes fresher and lighter. The farmers markets are open and we can get an array of local ingredients that will delight our taste buds. With the exception of barbecue, we gravitate to fresh pasta salads, tomatoes, fish and seafood, and the bounty of fruits and vegetables. Are you always in a habit of grabbing a glass of red wine with that juicy hamburger or steak? Think again. Many red wines go through a process called malolactic fermentation, not really fermentation, but a bacterial conversion of malic acid to lactic acid. Think of the acid in milk, mellow and smooth. Great for sipping but not so good for bringing out the flavor in food. For this we need a wine, white or red, that has more fruit forward acidity. For summer I go for whites or rosé which tend to have more acid that makes them crisp and refreshing, exciting the taste buds and cutting through spicy barbecue and creamy condiments. As a winemaker, my palate gets exhausted tasting wine, especially my own; so when I find a wine that is different and exciting, I’m all over it. Let me suggest a few good white wines that will please your palette and your pocket book. We’re talking sauvignon blanc from Australia and vino verde from Portugal. See reviews at the end of the article How about a summer concert at a winery! Three of the best venues around to hear world-class artists are within 3 hours from here. They are all open-air, with small, intimate settings where you can buy a seat or a spot on the lawn. My two favorites are Chateau St. Michelle in Woodinville, WA and McMinimums Edgefield near Troutdale, OR. The third is Maryhill Winery in the Columbia Gorge. I have visited the Maryhill and viewed the venue, but haven’t been to a concert there. But everything I have heard is that it is a great venue for music. The view is spectacular and the wines are very good. Maryhill was picked the best winery in Washington in 2009 by Wine Press Northwest and the best winery of year in 2014 by the San Francisco wine competition. So concert or not you should make the drive. It’s worth it. If you haven’t been to Woodinville, a concert is a great excuse to visit this mecca of Washington state tasting rooms. Places to stay are scarce in the city, but try out-lying areas for hotels near town. For a splurge, the Willows Lodges is located close to Chataeu St. Michelle and the Barking Frog restaurant is reasonable and good. Nancy and I like the reserved seats because they get you up front and center and you can focus on the music. But the lawn looks fun for a group and most folks are polite like all good wine citizens. It seems to me that Ste. Michelle has more mainstream artists than the edgier Edgefield near Portland. We had a blast at the Wilco concert, not the store, but the alternative band we saw a few years ago. At Ste. Michelle we have seen Bonnie Rait, Boz Scaggs, Michael McDonald, Amos Lee, and Donald Fagan. I waited too long to get tickets to Santana this season because the ticket prices seemed way to high, but now I’m regretting it. Santana is an icon of rock music. But most ticket are reasonable at around $50. At press time, seats are still available to see another legend, Stevie Winwood at Maryhill. Now that you know what wine to serve and have gotten out to wine country, it is time to have your friends over. This is the best part of summer. No excuses. Nancy and I don’t entertain like we used to because we are so busy with work and family. Our house never seems ready with endless repairs and maintenance, but there comes a point where it’s good enough. Your friends don’t care. They aren’t looking at all the things that are undone. They will be impressed that you cared enough to invite them, and when it’s all said and done, it will be a highlight of your summer. All reviewed wines were purchased at Cost Plus World Market in Vancouver, WA Four Sisters Sauvignon Blanc. This Australian wine is great with seafood. Boxwood is revealed on the nose, while the palate offers hints of white grapefruit. This medium-bodied wine finishes with a bright acidity, with garden vegetable flavors. 86 points in Wine Enthusiast. $12.00 Gazela Vinho Verde. Wine from Portugal that has a light green color, with a little sparkle that enhances its flavors and freshness. Aromatic and engaging, tropical fruit flavors, and stimulating acidity, very well balanced by a slight touch of sugar. $7.99 Exquisite Collection Côtes de Provence Rosé, earned a silver medal at the International Wine Challenge as the best rosé under $8.00. It has ripe summer stone fruits with a generous acid palate and crisp bright finish.”