Off the Vine: Cool wines on a hot day

July 24, 2013 

We have all heard the saying "you are what you eat," but I think that many of us are what we drink, especially when it comes to wine. I am not only speaking in terms of calories. Think about some of the words that are commonly used to describe a wine -- tight, restrained, remarkable intensity, beautifully balanced, complex, fresh, full of life, vibrant, voluptuous. These same words can also be used to describe people.

There are the flavors and aromas that are contained in wines: fruity, dark fruits, red fruits, citrus, apple, tropical, violets, lavender, mineral, earthy just to name a few. Then there are the different seasons, and they truly have an impact on what you desire to drink. In the heat of a summer afternoon, do you really want a big, heavy Cabernet Sauvignon? Or does a crisp, refreshing Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc sound like a better choice. I would choose either the Chardonnay or the Sauvignon Blanc to quench the thirst.

As you drive north on Highway 29, just outside of downtown St. Helena, Calif., elm trees line the roadway with their collective canopies creating a tunnel affect as you approach the entry to Beringer's winery and gardens. Beringer was established in 1876 and in 1934 became the first winery to offer tours to the public.

Chinese immigrants hand-chiseled caves into the mountainside during the 1880's and these caves naturally maintain temperatures around 58 degrees, which is ideal for aging and storing wine. Also unique to this property is an ancient tree, named "The Leaning Oak" which has been labeled as United

States Constitution Bicentennial Tree because it was alive at the time the constitution was signed.

The 2011 Beringer Chardonnay from Napa Valley starts with a slight aroma of vanilla and lemon, followed by flavors of spicy pear and ripe apples. While this wine is somewhat creamy and full-bodied, it is not overly buttery. This Chardonnay retails for approximately $16 a bottle. Beringer produces all of the major varietals and is also well-known for many of its different labeled Cabernet Sauvignons.

The 2012 Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand, is quite refreshing. This wine starts with a nose of fresh green grass and grapefruit, followed by ample flavors of lemon and grapefruit. This Sauvignon Blanc is crisp and zesty in the mouth.

Unlike Beringer, Whitehaven is a very young winery producing its' first vintage in 1995. In addition to the Sauvignon Blanc, the winery produces a number of different varietal including Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Noir.

The beauty of wine is that there are so many different varietals and then within each varietal, there are numerous nuances in styles. One day you can be big and bold while drinking a heavy red wine and the next you can be quite refined sipping a glass of Champagne or luscious and sweet with a dessert wine.

Jim Rawe, a family attorney in Bradenton, is an avid collector of fine wines. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at

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