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Dave DeSimone

The Wine Cellar: Wines for Labor Day feasts show rewards of hard work

Dave DeSimone
| Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015, 9:00 p.m.
Approaching the 2015 harvest, the team at Cliff Lede Vineyards is primed to start picking their Cabernet Sauvignon in September in full view of the Stags Leap District palisades.
Bob McClenahan
Approaching the 2015 harvest, the team at Cliff Lede Vineyards is primed to start picking their Cabernet Sauvignon in September in full view of the Stags Leap District palisades.
Shafer Vineyards in the Stags Leap District picked their first bin of Hillside Cabernet Sauvignon on Aug. 31.
Shafer Vineyards
Shafer Vineyards in the Stags Leap District picked their first bin of Hillside Cabernet Sauvignon on Aug. 31.
Shafer Vineyards in the Stags Leap District picked their first bin of Hillside Cabernet Sauvignon on Aug. 31
Shafer Vineyards
Shafer Vineyards in the Stags Leap District picked their first bin of Hillside Cabernet Sauvignon on Aug. 31
Approaching the 2015 harvest, the team at Cliff Lede Vineyards is primed to start picking their Cabernet Sauvignon in September in full view of the Stags Leap District palisades.
Bob McClenahan
Approaching the 2015 harvest, the team at Cliff Lede Vineyards is primed to start picking their Cabernet Sauvignon in September in full view of the Stags Leap District palisades.

When choosing wines for your Labor Day weekend cookout, consider the natural beauties of vineyard landscapes where grape harvests proceed daily. The following wines evoke noteworthy regions:

In Northern California, Stags Leap District nestles along the Silverado Trial on Napa Valley's eastern flank. Barely a mile wide and just three miles long, Stags Leap covers 2,700 acres, with just over half planted with vines. The awesome Stags Leap Palisades rising to the east and gently rolling hills to the west bracket the district for a clear sense of place, a distinct valley within the more famous Napa Valley.

Erosion from the palisades accounts for Stags Leap's volcanic, loamy soils. Ample sunshine, reflected by the palisades as amplified warmth, allows the grapes to ripen fully. In the evenings, from the south, the San Pablo Bay's cooler air funnels into the vineyards to create lower nighttime temperatures that preserve the fruit's fresh acidity.

Stags Leap's terroir fosters especially famed red Bordeaux varieties such as cabernet sauvignon and merlot. But do not discount the whites.

For instance, the 2013 Stags Leap Winery Viognier, Napa Valley, California (Luxury 33794; Chairman's Selection, on sale, $19.99) combines estate fruit with grapes from cooler regions further south near the bay. The wine's light-golden color unfolds classic honeysuckle and ripe-peach and citrus aromas. Tantalizing peach, apricot and tangerine flavors layer in a rich, lush texture balanced by fresh acidity through the dry, fruity finish. Pair it with grilled grouper with a citrus salsa. Highly recommended.

Dramatic slopes and protective hillside amphitheaters run rampant in northern Italy's Piedmont region to create spectacular vineyard vistas. The picturesque settings have prompted rustic vacation accommodations at places likes CA' Villa-Club Agriturismo in Gabiano, Italy.

This restored farmhouse perches on a steep, verdant hillside with a commanding view of serene slopes and valleys. Resonant bells from the nearby chapel mark the passing time as farmers in the meadows bail hay for the coming winter. Farmhouses with ruddy terra-cotta tile roofs dot the tranquil landscape amid colorful patches of red poppies and precise rows of grapevines soaking up the sunshine. In the distance, the Alps' snow-covered peaks rise in grandeur.

From this breathtaking landscape come wines such as the 2013 Cantine Valpane Barbera Del Monferrato “Rosso Pietro,” Italy (Luxury 43915; $12.99). Winemaker Pietro Arditi follows in his grandfather's footsteps by fermenting with native yeasts in cement tanks to allow the grapes' natural traits to shine without oak-barrel influences. The wine's purple color unfolds smoky, dark berry fruit with distinctive earthy accents. Juicy, sweet strawberry and tart raspberry flavors balance with bright acidity, soft tannins and intriguing meaty notes through a soft, fruity finish. Enjoy with grilled hamburgers with all the fixings. Recommended.

Southern France boasts countless gorgeous winegrowing regions. But Château de Lascaux's vines, toiling in a remote corner of the Coteaux du Languedoc appellation, hold their own beautifully. Around the quiet village of Vacquières, the domaine encompasses 200 acres with terroir similar to nearby Pic Saint Loup, a cooler, inland appellation. Rugged, rolling limestone hills dotted with aromatic wild rosemary, lavender and thyme frame the vineyards.

Thirteenth-generation winegrower Jean-Benoît Cavalier uses organic practices to fully capitalize on the distinctive terroir sandwiched between mountains to the north and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. The grapes benefit from intense, dry heat and plentiful sunshine, as well as the cooling maritime breezes. Meanwhile, the region's limestone and stony soil produce fruit with superb complexity. Reduced yields result in more concentration.

The 2012 Château de Lascaux Coteaux du Languedoc Rouge, France (Luxury 47802; $15.99, Penn Circle and Village Square Mall stores only) blends syrah, grenache and mourvèdre for a fresh, vibrant red. The dark-ruby color offers plum, black pepper and meaty nuances. Ripe dark fruit balances with refreshing mineral notes and firm, yet smooth tannins. Pair it with grilled rib-eye steaks. Highly recommended.

Dave DeSimone writes about wine for Trib Total Media.

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