Top Picks from the Wine Cellar: 6 to try with those tasty summer salads
Summer should be about sharing relaxing moments outside on fine sunny days. Savoring a casual, yet creative summer salad paired with a glass or two of wine provides the perfect opportunity to do so.
Stick to salads that go beyond just lettuce and croutons by adding fresh seasonal ingredients. In making a salad dressing, Chef John Ash from California advises avoiding a “clash of acidity” with the wine. Instead of using either red wine vinegar or white vinegar for the dressing, incorporate either balsamic vinegar or rice wine vinegar which have less acidity.
For the wines themselves, select crisp and refreshing bottles that are “gulpable” served well chilled. Avoid concentrated wines with astringent tannins — save those for meals with grilled foods.
Try the following combinations:
• Fresh, creamy goat’s cheese makes a perfect partner with pickled beets, walnut halves and chopped red onion. Toss the ingredients with a dollop or two of walnut oil (or good quality extra virgin olive oil) and a dash or two of balsamic vinegar. Then serve the mixture over arugula greens.
Pair the salad with the zesty 2018 Chavet Fils, Menetou-Salon Blanc, France (Luxury 80558; $19.99). Although part of the Loire Valley generally, the Menetou-Salon region lacks the brand awareness of more famous neighboring appellations such as Sancerre. But like the Sancerre whites, this wine comes from sauvignon blanc grapes grown in distinctive Kimmeridgian clay. Fermentation occurs in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks to capture the fruit’s zesty freshness.
The resulting wine offers lovely white flower, grapefruit and guava aromas. Similar fruit flavors follow wrapped with superb, crisp acidity and medium concentration. The wine finishes fruity, but dry for a refreshing pleasure. Recommended.
• The next salad takes full advantage of two early summer staples — fresh spinach and juicy strawberries. Simply mix a couple handfuls of cleaned spinach with a generous amount of sliced strawberries and a handful of crumbled feta cheese. Toss the salad with a vinaigrette of one part balsamic vinegar and four parts extra virgin olive oil whisked with salt and freshly ground pepper, and voilà it’s ready to serve with a tasty wine.
Pair the salad with the delicious 2017 Elena Walch, Pinot Grigio, Vigna Castel Ringberg, Südtirol/Alto Adige, Italy (Luxury 76294; $24.99). Located in northern most Italy amid the Dolomite Mountains’ marvelous natural splendor, the sloping Castel Ringberg vineyard contains a distinctive mix of gravel, moraine glacial rocks and limestone. This mix combined with plentiful sunshine and cool nighttime temperatures creates grapes with a marvelous balance of ripeness and steely freshness.
The wine opens with white flower and light smoky herbal hints. Ripe pear and citrus flavors follow balanced with zesty acidity and subtle creamy notes. The elegant dry finish lingers with fresh fruitiness. Highly Recommended.
• Cookbook author Sarah Leah Chase provides a variety of classic salad suggestions in her fun book “Pedaling Through Burgundy” (Workman Press; 1995). White Beans in a Light Wine and Cream Sauce requires a little bit of boiling and sautéing, but it meets summer salad criteria since the final dish can be served chilled. The combination of tender, savory white beans flavored with ham, carrots, garlic, shallots, thyme and tarragon makes a perfect partner with a drinkable, young white burgundy wine.
Try the 2017 Jean Manciat, Mâcon-Charnay, France (Luxury 80581; $19.99) made from hand-harvested chardonnay grapes grown in limestone and clay in southern burgundy. Fresh ripe apple and light earthy aromas unfold in the glass. Then ripe apple flavors follow with subtle oak accents, modest concentration and understated creaminess. All in, it’s a delicious, easy drinking and elegant wine. Highly Recommended.
• Summer’s profusion of ripe tomatoes makes caprese salad a “go-to” choice. Slice several beefy red tomatoes and layer each slice with fresh mozzarella cheese and a fresh basil leaf. Then drizzle on good quality virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add minced fresh garlic to taste.
Pair the caprese salad the delicious 2018 Cantine Vincenzo Ippolito, “Mabilia” Cirò Rosato D.O.C., Italy (Luxury 80930; $12.99). This dry “pink” wine comes from the Gaglioppo, a Calabria grape variety with origins possibly with the ancient Greeks settlers. The name “Mabilia” comes from a fabled Norman princess who lived in this southern Italian region all the way back in the 11th century.
The wine’s fetching salmon color offers light floral and vibrant red cherry aromas. Fresh, fruity flavors of red cherries and citrus balance with fresh acidity and minerality through the soft, dry finish. Highly Recommended.
• The classic Mediterranean summer salad, the salade niçoise, incorporates an array of savory treats. Canned tuna, green beans, tomato quarters, black olives, hard-boiled egg, minced shallots, boiled potatoes and bib lettuce all come together seamlessly when tossed with a light vinaigrette dressing.
Pair it with the tasty 2018 Chateau du Seuil, “La Chapelle du Seuil Rosé,” Coteaux d’Aix en Provence, France (Luxury 77944; $16.99), a dry “pink” rosé. The wine’s pale “onion skin” color offers aromas of rose petals and citrus. Delicious light red fruit and citrus flavors follow balanced with zesty acidity and a dry finish. Recommended.
• Again from Sarah Leah Chase in “Pedaling Through Burgundy,” the French Green Lentil Salad requires a little cooking of the lentils. But the dish’s delectable flavors of savory lentils, chopped carrots, minced garlic and minced red onion tossed with a mustard vinaigrette makes a classic summer salad.
Pair it with the delightful 2018 Marcel Lapierre, “Raisins Gaulois” Vin de France, France (Luxury 81003; $17.99). This fun red offers a perennial crowd pleaser from brother and sister team, Mathieu and Camille Lapierre. They grow the fruit organically without synthetic applications, and then they allow native yeasts to ferment the gamay grapes in whole clusters. Bottling occurs with minimal added sulfites. Bright raspberry and blueberry aromas open to juicy, pure flavors with terrific freshness. Delightful drinking. Highly Recommended.