The simple pleasure of summer wine.
Summers have an arc. As the earth tilts toward the sun, our energy steps up. First warmth accompanied by hours of extra daylight draws us outdoors. We stay out later, see friends more. A vibrant array of new produce appears at farmers markets, and I find myself cooking and entertaining nonstop to keep pace with the abundance. Then it gets hotter, sometimes oppressively so. Our pace slows as if to preserve the vital impulse. Suddenly, simplicity matters most of all. Dinner salads. Vegetarian pasta. No-cook meals. The novelty of rosé is long gone, except for certain salmon-hued bottles that drink like fine wine. It’s time for tumbler wines.
Tumbler wines are wines that show best in sturdy stout glasses with wide mouths. Refreshing wines that bring to mind farm-table dinners, country restaurants, and outdoor trattorias. Wines that lack pretension but express the purity of fresh-picked herbs, fruit, and flowers. Wines that take to a little chill whether they’re red or white; clear or cloudy; flat or effervescent. Wines that are not too dearly priced for a casual meal.
I recently heard Stephen Spurrier lead a panel at the International Pinot Noir Celebration in Oregon. Spurrier is the English wine merchant and writer credited with putting Napa Valley on the map with the 1976 tasting known as The Judgement of Paris. He’s a pleasure to listen to because he avoids jargon, instead favoring words that are precise and expressive. When a speaker referred to a particular Pinot Noir as a value wine, Spurrier shared that he didn’t believe in ‘value wines’ because the term implied a comparison, possibly a negative one. He preferred to talk about such wines as offering ‘value for pleasure.’ It’s an apt description of a good tumbler wine—wines priced so that you can open bottles for guests without a second thought; wines which, like good company, can be enjoyed effortlessly. We’ve rounded up ten of our favorites for you to explore.
Bow & Arrow, La Chenaie Vineyard, Sauvignon Blanc, 2017, Eola-Amity Hills
A rich and balanced sauvignon blanc that blends ripe lemon and stone fruit flavors with bright acidity and the impression of fresh-cut grass.
Subject to Change, Bonfiglio White Blend, 2017, Mendocino
This field blend of the Rhone varieties Marsanne and Roussanne yields a rich yet refreshing wine redolent of citrus and sagebrush.
Brandborg, Pinot Gris, 2018, Umpqua Valley
A lively mouth-filling Pinot Gris that speaks of white flowers, lime zest, and quince. The winery also makes a lovely Pinot Noir Blanc that is a bit more luscious with fresh raspberry aromas.
Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards, Gruner Veltliner, 2017, Umpqua Valley
An expressive Gruner Veltliner grown on south-facing slopes that shows weight on the palate and flavors of fresh apple, anise, and white pepper.
Robert Sinskey, Los Carneros, Pinot Blanc, 2014, Napa Valley
A generous aromatic Pinot Blanc crafted with precision and evocative of almonds, pears, and the ocean.
Johan Vineyards, Pinot Noir Petillant Naturel, 2018, Willamette Valley
A sparkling Pinot Noir made with estate-grown biodynamic fruit. This juicy effervescent wine smacks of just-ripe strawberries, raspberries, and plums.
Edmunds St. John, Bone-Jolly Gamay Noir, 2017, El Dorado County
Gamay, the classic grape of the wines of Beaujolais, planted in granite soil at an elevation of 3000 feet, yields an enchanting and elegant mix of red fruit and Mediterranean herbs.
Bonny Doon Vineyard, A Proper Claret, 2014, California
A blend of Bordeaux and Rhone varietals featuring plush red and black fruit, soft yet well-defined structure, and a persistent finish.
Rainsong Vineyard, Pinot Meunier, 2016, Willamette Valley
A medium-bodied small-production wine that tastes of sweet blackberries and unearthed minerals. Rainsong also makes a Pinot Meunier rosé which drinks like a lighter fresher iteration of this appealing red.
Matthiasson Family Vineyard, Tendu Red Wine, 2017, California
A charming natural wine with ebullient acidity made from the Italian varieties Aglianico, Barbera, and Montepulciano, the easy-drinking Tendu conjures fresh-cut flowers and red and black cherries.