Party wine bins set the mood

After a winter of full-bodied, higher-priced wines, Memorial Day weekend is the seasonal marker for turning to lighter, fresh, moderately priced wines for outdoor parties.

Welcome your guests as winemaker Jose Moro did at Manhattan’s Rouge Tomate with a glass of the refreshing 2016 Bodegas Cepa 21 Hito Rosé. Cepa 21 is the new winery created for the 21st-century by the third generation of the Moro family, one of Spain’s most respected wine names.

Last month, Moro was in New York City presenting his newest vintages, including the watermelon-colored 2016 Cepa 21 Hito rosé. Made from tempranillo grown in Cepa 21’s high-altitude Ribera del Duero vineyards, its orange and cherry fragrances and bright cherry and strawberry flavors are the essence of summer. A clean, dry finish is provided by the sandy soil vineyard and Moro’s winemaking. 90 points. Retail prices have a wide range of $11 to $18, shop accordingly.

One of the best values and most versatile white wines is the 2016 Domaine du Tariquet Classic Cotes du Gascogne. Gascony, the region between Bordeaux and Spain, is famous for its foie gras and Armagnac, and is the home of Domaine du Tariquet, owned by the Grassa family since 1912.

Fifth-generation family member and winemaker Armin Grassa, caught my attention with the first whiff of the lime scent floating from my glass of the 2016 Classic. His family began making the wine in 1982 from the ugni blanc grape—the same used in making Armagnac—and colombard. Five years ago, he added 10 percent each of sauvignon blanc and gros manseng to the blend.

Grassa’s alchemy resulted in a clear white, fragrant wine brazenly filled with lemon-thyme and lime flavors, and a dry, mineral finish. At 10.5 percent alcohol, the 2016 Classic is 25 percent below the standard New World white wine’s alcohol level, making this an “all-day white” you and your guests can enjoy without toppling over.

2016 Domaine du Tariquet Classic with my seafood and Israeli couscous salad.

I found the 2016 Domaine du Tariquet Classic delightful with a grilled and steamed asparagus spring salad that Grassa paired with it at Manhattan’s Black Barn restaurant. A few days later, I did my own matchmaking with another bottle of this tasty wine and a chilled seafood and Israeli couscous salad. At $9 to $12, the 2016 Domaine du Tariquet Classic is an unbelievably good value, and should be on everyone’s party shopping list. 88 points.

The Caiquin is a wild goose from Patagonia that flies across the Andes, the mountain range separating Argentina and Chile. In a way, it symbolized the trip that Chilean winery owner Aurelio Montes made in 2001 when he founded Bodega Kaiken in Mendoza, Argentina.

In February, Aurelio Montes Sr. and Jr. flew north to New York City’s Beekman Hotel where they delivered a father and son tasting. I reported on the father’s Chilean wines, Vina Montes (see the March 30 article “Montes is still dreaming”). Now, it’s “Junior’s” 2014 Kaiken Ultra Cabernet Sauvignon that is in the spot light.

Aurelio Montes Sr. and Jr. at Beekman Hotel tasting.

The 42-year-old Aurelio Montes Jr. (really, he is called Junior) was the winemaker at the biodynamically farmed Kaiken from 2011 to 2016, after which he returned to the family’s Montes winery in Chile.

Junior’s 2014 Kaiken Ultra cabernet sauvignon contains grapes from 80-year-old vines, along with five percent malbec. I noted its Bordeaux texture, and liked its earthy and blackberry aromas. The flavorful Darjeeling tea and blackberry flavors glided to a long, fruit-filled finish. This will be a good companion to barbecued chicken legs and grilled steaks. 89 points. Its retail price spreads its wings from $13 to $23.

Domaines Schlumberger is a highly respected producer of Alsace wines. Its Les Princes Abbes label honors the 1,000 year history of the Benedictine monks who lived in the Murback Abbey. From its founding in 732, in Alsace’s Guebwiller village, the monks obtained wealth and power, building fortresses and castles, created their own currency and employed an army. In 1298, Emperor Frederic II gave the abbey the title of Prince Abbot and the Holy Roman Empire knighted the monks.

Schlumberger’s 334 acre hillside vineyard, largest in Alsace (courtesy of Domaines Schlumberger).

The 2014 Domaines Schlumberger Les Princes Abbes Pinot Noir has its own commanding presence. Its eye-appealing translucent cherry hue, and enticing cranberry and allspice aromas are noble pinot noir qualities. Delicious cherry, strawberry and cranberry flavors are carried on a medium body with integrated tannins and supporting acidity. Served slightly chilled on a summer day, this very, well-made wine will bring you acclaim at less than a princely sum.  89 points. Retail price is about $24.

Photos by John Foy