La Marca Prosecco NV ($10): On our way to a recent City Park Jazz concert, we stopped at the liquor store to scoop up - you guessed it--some chilled rosé to stash in our picnic basket. There was nary a bottle to be had, so we defaulted to our Plan B summer wine of choice: bubbly. In spite of its ridiculously low price, this prosecco more than made up for its not being pink and could easily have passed for a sparkler costing twice the price. Bursting with classic fruit notes like crisp green apples and peaches followed through with a rich, creamy finish made us forget we'd ever planned to drink rosé in the first place.
Blüfeld Riesling Mosel 2009 ($11): Oh, riesling. You poor, misunderstood grape varietal. Why you still can't shake your rep as a too-sweet, overly simplistic wine just never ceases to amaze us. If you are one of the few who still haven't seen the light, we urge you to scoop up a bottle of this refreshing-as-a-dip-in-the-lake wine and get with the program. The key element that makes for a fabulous riesling? In a word, balance. Which is to say, the right amount of acidity, minerality and residual sugar, all of which you'll find in this charming little number. We tasted plenty of pear, apricot, orange blossom, and lemon zest here, especially when sipped alongside a plate of duck confit.
Ronco del Gnemiz Bianco San Zuan Fruiliano 2009 ($26): A few years ago, there was a bit of a kerfuffle in the wine industry over a difficult to pronounce, yet infinitely drinkable varietal from northeastern-most Italy called Tocai Fruiliano. See, there was this other wine called Tokaji (from Hungary) and people were just getting all confused and...well, suffice it to say, the Italians decided to quash the madness and just start calling their wines Fruiliano instead. All of that may be Greek to you but what will become infinitely clear is how freakin' good this wine is. First, conjure up your previously held perceptions about all the weak, insipid, pinot grigio you may have stumbled upon over the course of your wine drinking career. Now replace that sullied image with a vision of the most lush, fragrant, mouth-filling, ever-so-delicate and kissed with honeysuckle white wine you've ever tasted. That'd be about what to expect from this glorious bottling.
Vietti Barbera d'Asti Tre Vigne 2008 ($16): While we're celebrating the summertime quaffability of northern Italian whites, let us regale you with a description of a red wine that's absolutely ideal for savoring on a sultry evening (or afternoon, for that matter). Barbera is our one of our all-time favorite warm-weather reds for three very important reasons: its welcoming flavors of cherry, cranberry and fig; bright acidity to pair with all manner of savory fare; and, last but not least, how great it tastes when served slightly chilled (somewhere around 50 degrees is where we like it). This particular wine won us over after we drank it with a meal of risotto laced with spicy sausage and ribbons of Swiss chard. You don't have to get that fancy, though: a follow-up pairing with leftover pizza was just as stunning.