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The Tasting Room: Sunshine Wines

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Certified Wine Specialist Ben Mackall’s recommendations for wines to drink this summer. PHOTO BY BEN MACKALL

By Ben Mackall EBS COLUMNIST

While a cool, wet spring had me drinking red wine well into June, we’ve perhaps reached that time of year where the Chacos and shorts come out, the days get longer and hotter and the best thing I can think of is a bottle of rose or crisp white sweating in the Yeti on the driftboat deck. We get questions a lot at the Hungry Moose about what wines to buy as the weather gets warmer. If you’re a red drinker, this is the time to branch out. Here are some of my tips for choosing the perfect porch-pounder.

  1. When in doubt, think light: Light in color, light in body, light in alcohol. There’s a reason light beer and rose rule the summertime. All of these things will keep you in the game long after that 10 p.m. sunset and barbecue action without having to take a 6 p.m. nap under the picnic table. 
  2. Look to higher-acid wines. High acid is the primary factor that makes a wine “refreshing” because acid is what makes us salivate. High-acid wines are typically produced in cooler climates, so look to Oregon, Germany, Switzerland and New Zealand. 
  3. For those who typically reach for beer, fear not! Bubbles are the ultimate summer quaff —particularly “pet-nats”, the trendy style of sparklers generally under a beer-like crown cap and sporting low alcohols and fun flavors. Bubbles keep the palate light and refreshing and make them perfect for cutting through mayo-rich slaw and other such barbecue fare. 
  4. If you gotta have your red fix, remember tip No. 1: Reds that are lower in alcohol, lighter in color and lower in tannin won’t weigh you down in the hot sun. Don’t be afraid to throw these lighter reds in the fridge either. A chill sometimes does wonders.

Here’s what I’ve been loving lately:

Illahe Willamette Valley Viognier – $21 

Adult lemonade. Oregon’s cooler climate keeps this from getting too floral or peachy like some French examples can be. Drink it ice cold (or—gasp—maybe even throw a cube in?). 

Gabernik 20 White Piquette – $20

Slovenian wine! This is your go-to for when you can’t decide on beer or wine. Piquette is a traditional sparkler made from the already-pressed grapes after the first round of wine is finished. At a featherweight 7 percent alcohol, it’s lower gravity than some IPAs. Drink the whole thing, we aren’t judging. 

Ovum Big Salt White – $18

A day at the beach in a bottle. A new darling of wine lists all over the U.S., Ksenjia Kostic’s utterly mouthwatering flagship white from Oregon marries the acid of riesling with the floral and spice of gewurtztraminer and muscat. The name is apt too, a subtle saltiness ups the refreshment factor. 

Why am I Mr. Pink? Rose – $13

Perfectly light in color and heft but with ripe enough fruit to let you know it came from the hot sun of Washington. Punches way above the price! Bonus points—we love a good movie reference, in this case a Steve Buscemi line from “Reservoir Dogs. 

Ben Mackall, Certified Specialist of Wine, is the wine curator and beverage specialist for the Hungry Moose Market & Deli. When not nerding out on all things grape, you can find him on the river or going (slowly) up and down mountains.

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