Enjoy your Labor Day party with good-value wines that will also please in the fall.
In the mid-1970s, Nicky Hahn and his wife, Gaby, purchased two ranches in Monterey County and began converting them to vineyards. Their first wine was in 1979 under the Smith & Hook label; the following year they launched the Hahn-labeled wines.
California has a sunshine image, but Monterey is the coldest viticulture area in America. The grapes are subjected to cold morning winds and fog, warming afternoon sunshine, followed by an evening encore performance of fog and dropping temperatures. Pinot gris grapes thrive in this environment.
Pinot gris is also known as pinot grigio and its DNA kin is pinot noir. Both are cool climate grapes that like to ripen slowly, accumulating sugar and acidity that winemakers convert into balanced and complex wines.
A year ago, I visited the Hahn winery and tasted the 2011 Hahn Monterey Pinot Gris on the deck of the new cooking school and culinary center that opened to the public. Today, the 2012 Hahn Monterey Pinot Gris is in our market and shares with its 2011 sibling the enticing jasmine and ripe pear aroma. Its medium body is packed with a kaleidoscope of peach, pear and guava flavors bearing a refreshing acidity. Pour it as an aperitif, or with grilled chicken or pork and a fruit salsa of mango, watermelon and green apple.
The 2012 Hahn Monterey Pinot Gris retails for about $15.
The Puglia region is the heel of boot-shaped Italy. It is a sun-drenched land occupied over centuries by Greeks, Romans, Turks and others who, no doubt, where attracted by its grapevines and olive trees.
Castello Monaci is located in Puglia’s Salento area in a 16th-century castle once owned by Basiliani monks. Since the 19th century, it has been owned by Lina Memmo’s family and now her husband, Vitantonio Seracca.
Winemaker Sergio Leonardo produces the 2012 Castello Monaci Kreos Rosato from the region’s principal red grape Negroamaro and 10 percent Malvasia Nera. To make his rosato, he uses the “saignee method,” meaning the juice is drawn off fermenting red wine after it has achieved its pink color.
What arrives in your glass is a cooper hue, orange zest and floral-scented wine. The 2012 Castello Monaci Kreos Rosato offers tiers of cheery, wild strawberry and tangerine tastes. While I like my rose’ wines a little crisper, many will find its residual sugar pleasing. Offer a glass of it as your guests arrive, or alongside grilled shrimp with a relish of grilled corn kernels, sautéed pancetta and sweet onion on a bed of arugula.
And when you cover up the grill and put it away for the season, be sure to have a few extra bottles of both wines for a fall vegetable casserole.
The 2012 Castello Monaci Kreos Rosato retails for approximately $15.