It's not just any wine you take on a picnic. Carrie Brown, owner of the upscale country store Jimtown, in Sonoma's Alexander Valley, has the right idea about what wines to tote in the basket. "Something unpretentious, easily drinkable and light. Something refreshing," says Brown, whose gourmet deli and wine bar supplies many day-trippers to Northern California wine country.
Memorial Day is the coming-out party for the picnic season, and wine lovers will be searching for a good bottle to go with whatever they pack, be it focaccia sandwiches, fried chicken and potato salad or just a baguette and cheese.
As the weather warms, many domestic producers are releasing their latest vintages of light-bodied white wines, including old standards such as Gewürztraminer and Chenin Blanc as well as some relative newcomers like Pinot Gris (also known as Pinot Grigio). France, Germany and Italy may have made these varietals famous, but California produces charming examples as well.
These wines share much in common. They're delicious, delicately flavored and well-suited to a summer day's casual picnic fare.
There's another advantage to picnic wines: You don't need to pay first-growth prices. A good picnic wine can be found for $10 or $20. As Brown, whose recipes are found in "The Jimtown Store Cookbook," says, "It's just lunch. It's casual."
|WILLAKENZIE Pinot Gris Willamette Valley 2002||89||$18|
|Supple, round and generous with its peach, cantaloupe and perfumy, citrusy overtones, finishing silky. Tasted from a bottle with a screw-cap closure. Drink now. 5,050 cases made. -- H.S.|
|DOMAINE STE. MICHELLE Blanc de Blanc Columbia Valley NV||88||$11|
|Bright and crisp, lively with peppery peach and citrus flavors, lingering nicely on the finish. Drink now. 49,700 cases made. -- H.S.|
|NAVARRO Gewürztraminer Anderson Valley Dry 2002||88||$16|
|A delicately beautiful wine, with aromas of grapefruit and pear that burst into intense and pleasingly oily flavors of spice, litchi nut and orange zest. A long, intense finish. A first-class Gewürztraminer. Drink now. 4,079 cases made. -- J.L.|
|BONNY DOON Riesling America Dry Pacific Rim NV||86||$10|
|A tasty wine, with modest complexity and luscious and spicy peach, melon and tropical fruit. Blend of fruit from Washington and Germany. Drink now. 32,128 cases made. -- J.L.|
|DRY CREEK Chenin Blanc Clarksburg Dry 2002||84||$9|
|Concentrated, with good intensity to baked apple, honey and tart citrus tones. Drink now. 10,000 cases made.|
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