Summertime Living Is Easy in California Wine Country


It was a warm, balmy early summer evening as I was sitting outside among the flowers and palms near the pool. What could be better? Toss in some Wine Council friends, some very special wines served with delectable food pairings along with a couple of creamy cheeses, and you have the recipe for a magical evening.


The first wine our group sampled was a dry white from Spain called Cal y Canto Dry White 2012 ($18). This wine is a great summertime wine that engaged us with its crispness along with good acidity and a clean, lasting finish. Tapas-style appetizers of ham and sweetly roasted tomatoes on a crusty bread balanced the acidity of the wine perfectly.


The Cal y Canto Dry White provided a perfect yin and yang for two amazingly creamy and flavorful cheeses from Fromagerie Guilloteau (in the Rhone-Alpes region of France), Saint Angel and Saint Geric (sister cheeses). The Saint Angel appears to have a hint of mushroom flavor in the rind, covering a rich and buttery center with a hint of tang. The Saint Geric is the perfect marriage of a triple crème and blue cheese—rich and creamy with a subtle blue flavor. These cheeses are sold at Whole Foods, as well as many grocers and specialty cheese shops.


Notturno dei Calanchi Pinto Nero 2011 ($67) perked up our taste buds with the smooth and rich taste of dark fruits typical of what one expects from a fine pinot noir. The Calanchi region lies on the border between Tuscany, Lazio and Umbria and is the birthplace of the pre-Roman Etruscan culture. Volcanic soil composed of deep valleys with cliffs and rock walls provide the perfect soil for a wine comparable to the best in Burgundy. A Marsala mushroom soup "shooter" accompanied the wine, delivering an earthiness that enhanced the dark fruit flavor of the wine. The Notturno dei Calanchi Pinto Nero proved to be one of our favorites.


Carlin de Paolo Grignolino Vendemmia 2012 ($15-$17) displayed a beautiful ruby color and a complex fruity nose of grapes and cherry. Grignolino is a red-wine grape of the Italy's Piedmont region. The palate of this particular Grignolino wine is dry, lively, and quite intense. This wine can also be served as an aperitif when served at a cooler temperature. Mozzarella and prosciutto roll-ups brought out the fruitiness of this wine.


We found the Cal y Canto 2011, a Tempranillo, Merlot, and Syrah blend, ($16) to be a pleasant wine with rich, sweet and intense aromas of raspberry and black cherry, along with cedar chips and violet notes and hints of vanilla and caramel. The wine filled our mouths with a smooth, ripe, silky fullness followed by a juicy finish. What could be more perfect to serve with this wine than a Spanish pastry of chorizo and Manchego cheese.


A surprise for all of us was the value of the next wine, Siciliana Nero d’avola 2013 ($11.99), grown on the hills of Alcamo, Sicily, facing south by southwest. The ruby-red color is accompanied by a nose of black cherries, blackberries, and black pepper. On the palate appears abundant flavors of ripe fruit and exotic spices. The wine has well-balanced flavors that complemented the pairing of our grilled London broil. Pizza, pasta, or barbecue could also be served with this wine.


Earning 93 points from Wine Spectator, Perlita 2013 Malbec-Syrah ($11.95) from Argentina was a real crowd-pleaser. The Perlita is beautifully layered with dark chocolate, berry, and light vanilla character. We discovered this wine to be full-bodied with ultra-fine tannins and a long, flavorful finish. All this richness paired well with the scrumptious Philly cheese steak sandwiches.


Sweet Cheeks 2012 Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley ($65) proved to be the favorite of the evening. “Yum!” is the best description we all gave it. This youthful wine exhibits a full body and a deep color with a hint of cherry and plum, followed with a long-lasting finish of sweet, toasted hazelnuts. Sweet Cheeks Pinot Noir is both elegant and aromatic. Pomegranate-marinated pork roll-ups counterpoised the richness of this elegant wine.


All in all, the Wine Council was blessed with the opportunity to discover   amazing wines that we will all be eagerly on task to find either in our local markets or online. 

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