Some wine marketers—and even some writers—might try to convince you otherwise, but we really are allowed to drink wines other than rosé in the spring and summer months. Seriously. Drink what you want, when you want.
Don’t get me wrong. There are few more versatile wines than well-made, dry rosé. I’ve been known to “think pink” and “rosé all day” myself. It pairs with a wide range of foods, is quite refreshing and, yes, it looks beautiful in your glass. Rosé is a staple in my house year-round, but particularly so in the summer and fall months.
But here on Long Island, we’re extremely lucky to live in a wine region where there is so much delicious diversity when it comes to summer-ready wines.
What makes for a great summer wine? For me, it’s pretty straightforward. I want fresh acidity. When the weather warms, you don’t want wines that taste flat or flabby in your mouth. Acidity makes wine refreshing on a hot summer day.
I also don’t want a large oak footprint, if any at all. Some people do like oakier wines with grilled foods—say a barrel-fermented chardonnay with grilled shrimp—but I’m not one of those people.
Almost without exception, I prefer that my wine act as a stand-in and extrapolation of the lemon juice I would squirt on that grilled shrimp to enliven my palate.
The wine can be fruity, but it needn’t be overtly so. Sometimes saline minerality or savory, herbal qualities work better with certain foods.
With those basic guidelines—not rules, never rules—there are dozens of local wines that fit the bill, but I’ve narrowed it down to seven wines that I’ve tasted over the past couple of months that I know I’ll be going back to all summer long. I think you might too.
RGNY 2021 Scielo Sauvignon Blanc
Before she left for California earlier this spring, winemaker Lilia Perez and her wines were really hitting their stride across the portfolio. This is a beautiful example of North Fork sauvignon, with aromas of mandarin oranges, melon, lemon-lime citrus, and just a hint of lemongrass. The juicy palate tastes similar but with the addition of bright passion fruit flavor. With nice concentration and just a bit of weight on the mid-palate and a long, dry finish, this is a classic summer sip on its own at the beach or with a salad overflowing with local produce.
McCall Wines 2021 Cuvee Nicola Sauvignon Blanc
It’d be easy to list a half dozen local sauvignon blancs here—so many of them are so delicious—but I’m going to limit myself to just the RGNY and this one from McCall, a winery best known for what it does with pinot noir. This sauvignon blanc is more driven by grapefruit and fresh-cut grass with hints of white pepper on the nose and features a beautiful minerally vein on the palate that seems to lengthen the concentrated citrus flavors. The acidity is brisk and mouthwatering, making it a great option for a variety of scallop preparations.
Lenz Winery 2019 Chardonnay
Unoaked chardonnay is another great option in the warmer months. This example from Lenz Winery smells and tastes of freshly picked apples and citrus with hints of tropical fruit. It is a bit rounder on the palate than the sauvignon blancs on this list with acidity that, while still fresh, is a bit softer and more integrated. Drink this with things like striped bass or flounder as winemaker Thomas Spotteck, an avid fisherman, does.
Lieb Cellars 2020 Sparkling Pinot Blanc
Repeat after me: sparkling wine isn’t just for New Years. Drink it any day that ends in “y.” There is more great sparkling wine being made on Long Island than many realize—and the 2019 vintage of this long-time favorite is a standout. There is a purity to the pear and lemon peel flavors here with hints of apricot and citrus blossoms. Fresh and clean, the palate features a beam of acidity, a hint of yeastiness, and a long, minerally finish. Pop the cork on a bottle of this the next time you have raw oysters.
Palmer Vineyards 2021 Albarino
The grape best known in Spain and Portugal (where it’s known as Alvarinho) has made a home on the North Fork too, with a small handful of wineries working with it now—and it’s easy to see why. There are pretty floral aromas laid over notes of citrus and peach and a distinct hint of salty ocean breeze. Uniquely delicious for the region and a perfect companion to roasted local vegetables.
Bedell Cellars 2021 Corey Creek Vineyard White Cabernet Franc
Speaking of uniquely delicious, this is a white wine made with red grapes and it is unlike anything else on this list—or on the Island. It smells of yellow plum and apricot with a sprinkling of white pepper and fresh summer herbs. Soft, but balanced, the palate is a bit more peachy but still oscillates between fresh fruit and savory flavors. That’s what makes it so interesting and fun to drink over the course of a meal or evening. Herby grilled pork or chicken seem like a nice foil for this one.
Channing Daughters Winery 2019 Rosso Fresco
A bit of a kitchen sink red blend of 75% merlot, 12% petit verdot, 6% cabernet franc, 4% dornfelder, and 3% syrah, this is exactly the kind of red wine I love in the summer with a burger or grilled pork. There is a nice bit of complexity on the nose with crushed red raspberries, black pepper, violets, and a hint of cassis. On the palate, it’s medium-light bodied with fresh acidity and soft tannins and nice earthy, savory edges to a melange of black and red berries. Best of all, you can chill it lightly for those hot summer nights.