Summer doldrums? It's wine party time

It was the most expensive vacation in which I never left home.
My wife, the Wine Goddess, and yours truly were planning to visit my sister, who has a nice 43-foot cabin Cruiser on Lake Michigan, last week. But prior to departure, our central heating/air conditioning system expired, an electrical coil quit its refrigerator job and the lawn mower gagged and coughed and refused to chew up the grass.

So we stayed home and had everything replaced or fixed.

Our vacation budget was tapped leaving the October trip to Sicily in a dream state once again.

It’s amazing how “bad” things come in threes. So when that happens what is the Wine Novice to do? He counters the gloom with three times the boom.

First, I broke away from laborers in the house and went on a wine-buying binge.

Second, the Wine Goddess announced she was going to make a white Sangria, and gave me a shopping list of ingredients.

Third, we notified neighbors we were having a pergola party urging them to come and commiserate with us on our “lost” week.
“Misery” must like company because 17 people showed up.

They brought pasta, taco and vegetable salads, plus cakes and fruits and dips.

I manned the grill with Mike Pigeon, the Wine Butler, and we seared marinated steak tips and cubed chicken pieces, along with Italian sweet sausage. The Wine Goddess made fresh blueberry crisp for dessert.

Tony Bennett crooned from his Art of Romance CD and the wines began to flow in and out of the pergola.

The guests got to select from the Sangria, two white wines, four Pinot Noirs and a red blend from Paso Robles.

Overall, the comments were favorable. The whites went well with the appetizers and salads and the reds won approval with the grilled meats and vegetables.
Here’s what we drank:

White Sangria This adaptation combined Pinot Grigio with a mixture of sliced kiwis, white grapes and white nectarines. A touch of brandy, cointreau and sugar were added, along with a spritz of kiwi vitamin water. The mixture sat 48 hours in the refrigerator before serving. The taste was pleasantly tropical, exotic and smooth, and only mildly sweet.

2011 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, $17.99 A great party starter with zesty lime and pineapple notes. Clean and crisp from New Zealand.
2010 Chateau Ste. Michelle Indian Wells Chardonnay, $12.99 From Washington State’s Columbia Valley, this is a dry but elegantly rich Chardonnay that defies its price. Well-balanced with lemon and apricot fruit and acidity to produce a nice finish.

2009 Firesteed Pinot Noir, $12 This Oregon product came across a bit thin with the grilled meats and fell short with the crowd. Its sweet cherry notes and lighter body would go well with white chicken and noodle dishes and salmon.

2010 Mark West Pinot Noir, $12.99 Marketed as “Pinot for the People,” it is a delicious, affordable, full-bodied wine that is always up for a barbecue. Smooth taste with a great dark fruit mouthfeel.

2009 Coppola Director’s Cut Pinot Noir, $16.99 Another fabulous, silky appellation from this outstanding winery. Full-bodied and strong on the strawberry and cherry aromatics, the wine bursts with flavor and leaves a hint of chocolate on the palate. Good buy.

2010 Kendall Jackson Reserve Pinot Noir, 17.99 Another California red that is rich in quality and taste. Ruby color, dark cherry and raspberry characteristics with a bit of spice make this a luscious treat with summer fare.

Jettlynn Winery Mon Couer, $21.99 A modern red blend of six red grape varietals, this Paso Robles concoction was a backyard stunner. The Cabernet Sauvignon (34%) and Petit Verdot (21%) set the foundation for a full-bodied structure and yet the texture was velvety and fruit opulent. A long, satisfying, smoky finish was delightfully received. This wine sells for $50 in California and is selling at half the price at Costco in New Hampshire. All other wines can be purchased at local wine stores.

If you are planning a party, or just staying home, give these Wine Novice selections a try and let me know what you think.

Follow Jim ampanini on witter@suneditor.

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