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Murray: These white wines will cool you off
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Wine of the month

Valley of the Moon Cuvee de la Luna 2007

The wine: Elegant, full-bodied red table wine
The grapes: Bordeaux-style blend of 69 percent cabernet sauvignon, 19 percent merlot, 7 percent malbec and 5 percent cabernet franc
The source: Sonoma County, California
The verdict: Valley of the Moon is a winery in the highly respected Kenwood stable. The wines generally are of limited production — 3,200 cases for this one — and of superb quality. I sampled this wine recently and the only “flaw” I could find is that it needs at least another year of bottle aging. Cuvee de la Luna is not only a well-made wine, it’s a great value, as well. It’s a Meritage wine (made in the Bordeaux style) that rivals wines at twice the price. Flavors show promise of future richness; closed-in dark fruit flavors that will open up with some judicious aging, dressed up with subtle oak aromas of vanilla and cedar. I believe while this edition of Cuvee de la Luna will be ready to drink in late 2011, it will age beautifully for another 8-10 years. This one is a genuine keeper!
The price: About $30

Around this time of year in northeast Georgia, I am reminded of one of the tunes from “Porgy and Bess.”

Goes like this: “Summertime, and the livin’ is ...” nasty hot, humid, thundery, etc. And don’t forget the occasional drive-by tornado.

So while the climate gets hot and heavy, let’s concentrate on some cool, light wines for our summertime quaffing. Whites do dominate. Why? Precisely because they are lighter than red wines, tend to accompany hot-weather food better and because they are served cold. I’ll save my hot mulled wine recipes for December.

Viognier (pronounced vee-on-YAY) tells your nose there’s a lot of fruity flavors — peach and apricot — and a dollop of honey coming soon to a taste bud near you. Your nose has been duped. Viognier, with its roots in the Rhone Valley of France, is soft and dry. Great wine for picnic fare.

Nice thing is you can get some excellent viogniers grown right here in northeast Georgia. Habersham Vineyards and Winery, whose tasting room is in Sautee Nacoochee, just south of Helen, produces a lovely viognier. In fact, Habersham’s was the first quality wine from these parts I ever tasted.

And Blackstock Vineyards and Winery between Helen and Dahlonega also puts out a pair of fine viogniers — a “regular” bottling and a reserve. They both are quite palatable, but I do prefer the extra muscle of the reserve.

I recently taught a class on “Wines of the Southern Hemisphere” at Brenau University. One of the big hits from the white wine list was the Luigi Bosca Finca La Linda Torrontes 2008 from the Mendoza region of Argentina. Torrontes is a grape with a faint Spanish heritage, which has become Argentina’s signature white grape. This torrontes has lovely, crisp flavors with overtones of citrus. Great with seafood or lighter meats, such as veal or pork.

I’m not a big fan of chardonnay, but I recently found one you probably can find in your wine shop, or even in the supermarket. It’s from Concannon Vineyards, one of California’s older wineries, still clinging to some of the most expensive real estate out there ... adjacent to Silicon Valley. The 2008 Conservancy Chardonnay comes from fruit grown on specially protected and conserved vineyards. Aside from the environmental hurrahs, I can say I really like this subtly flavorful chardonnay.

From Slovenia comes my next wine. It’s called Quattro Mani (four hands) Exto Gredic Vineyard Tocai 2008. Not to be confused with Hungarian Tokay, which is a rich, sweet dessert wine, this one is crisp, quite tart and cries out for seafood. Lots of acid to help balance out an oily fish entrée. It comes from a winegrowing area just over the border from Fruili in northeastern Italy. Great territory for white wine.

Nicely chilled rose is a perfect summer wine — with food or just for sipping. I’ve recently latched on to a great Spanish rosado from Coto de Hayas. You would swear there were strawberries in it. No, just a blend of garnacha (grenache) and tempranillo grapes. And, yes, it’s pink. No, it’s not sweet ... not even a little.

And speaking of roses, Mumm Napa has just released its wonderful Brut Rose. Mumm’s California wines are top-shelf; made from the traditional Champagne blend of pinot noir and chardonnay grapes, and produced using the classic Champagne method. Putting together a high-quality sparkling wine/Champagne takes time and talent. And Mumm puts both into this coral-pink rose. To me this is the perfect food wine; great with red meat, white meat and anything in between.

Mumm also offers its Brut Prestige, again made in the Champagne method, but with 1 percent pinot gris — which would be a hanging offense in France. Quite dry, with aromas of bread dough (from the yeasts) and lots of tiny bubbles, it’s a great summer sipper.

And finally, you want a fun wine? I have a fun wine. I’m frequently asked why all sparkling wine is either white or pink. Why no sparkling RED wines? Well, I found one. It’s Paringa Sparkling Shiraz from South Australia, and it’s a hoot! Comes foaming out of the bottle with lots of sparkle ... but dark red, just like non-bubbly shiraz. It’s semi-sweet, so it’s not a dinner wine.

But it is fun ... and memorable. Go out on the boat, pop this puppy as the sun goes down and watch folks simply enjoy the flavors and bubbles.

Happy summer!

Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident. Have a question about wine? He can be contacted at murrwine@aol.com. His column appears on the first Wednesday of the month.

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