August and September are filled with scrumptious, ripe vegetables from the garden, the smells of jam made from home-grown fruit, and lazy evenings grilling outside with friends and family.
A late August memory of mine is the aroma of lush grapes hanging in huge bunches off the vines my friend’s grandmother grew along a huge trellis. The entire yard was perfumed with the spicy-sweet smell of grapes as they hung ripening in the sun.
When I first smelled, then tasted, the American Niagara wine from Oak Knoll Winery in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, I was transported back to those wonderful years in that back yard. This is a sweet wine but when served chilled (not cold), the aroma and taste are divine. I have never smelled a wine that so perfectly reflected those giant purple globes ripened by the sun.
This wine is made with an original native American grape, so if you’re into buying American, this is the wine for you.
Serve it with light appetizers or with marinated, grilled chicken, and you will love it. At $8 a bottle, this is a steal.
Another nice transitional wine is the Sauvignon Blanc from Chateau Ste. Michelle in the Columbia Valley of Washington. The 2016 we tried was sprightly, not too sweet, and was the kind of wine you could easily enjoy out on the deck as you watch the sun set. We paired it with clam fritters, and its fresh taste worked well with the pungency of clams. This white wine has a nice balance between crisp and sweet, so it should tickle the taste buds of a wide variety of white wine lovers.
A beautifully balanced red, we enjoyed this summer, which would be perfect now and into the fall, was the Dreaming Tree 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon. This lovely, balanced wine with notes of dark chocolate and traditional blackberry and plum was served with grilled elk steak and it performed superbly with this mild, wild game. My husband is not fan of Cabernet Sauvignon, so when one gets his approval, which this did, I know a wide range of wine drinkers will enjoy it.
Dreaming Tree Winery is the cooperative brain child of musician Dave Matthews and native New Zealander Sean McKenzie. This California wine is exceptionally smooth with satisfying mouth tannins and is incredibly reasonably priced. If you can’t find it in a store near you, the winery can ship to Montana.
Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel is a terrific transitional wine. Not as light as some summer wines, it is not a heavy, merlot-type for rich winter meals. A group of four of us found this wine simply delicious.
This wine is made from 35- to 85-year-old grape vines. Head trained and spur pruned, these older vines produce smaller grapes in fewer clusters that have increased intensity of flavor, which is why Gnarly Head chooses to make old vine Zinfandel: it’s all about the richness of the juice these grapes produce.
I found this wine to be redolent of ripe blackberries, with a touch of plum, some spice, and a tiny bit of pepper. It’s aged in a combination of American and French Oak barrels, but the oak does not overpower the richness of the berry. We served this wine with smoked salmon pasta, and it was an immediate hit.
Finally, an interesting wine we tried was the Robert Mondavi Private Selection 2016 cabernet sauvignon, aged in bourbon barrels. Having never tried a wine aged this way, I thought it was something we should explore. Again, my husband gave this a resounding thumb up. The aging mellowed the edginess right out of the Cabernet Sauvignon without detracting from any of its lovely character. Two other tasters felt this wine was exceptional as well, and at a huge discount of $6 a bottle, it was an absolute steal. If you can find this wine on sale, buy it. If not, try it anyway as it is perfect with such late summer dinners as grilled burgers, or even pizza, on the deck.