Red, White, and Rosé: 90+ Point Wines To Kick Off Your Summer

The weekend is coming, and you’re facing a house full of guests, a flaming grill, and who knows what on the potluck menu. With a wide variety of tastes, and an eclectic menu planned, it can be a little overwhelming knowing which wines to serve. Choosing which wines to pair with barbecue and grilled foods can also be a challenge, with choices mounting by the minute.

Never fear, for we’ve taken the guesswork out of the wine portion of the menu with your Memorial Day Weekend plans! Here are just 8 of our favorite wines for pairing with barbecue and summer.

First up, the reds. What barbecue wouldn’t be complete without a great glass of red wine to go with that charred and crusted steak? When the weather gets warm, that choice becomes a bit more challenging, as some reds can feel a little to heavy for summer and outdoor sipping. Try these all weather reds for your next outdoor party, and fearlessly throw the rules out the window. We promise, you won’t miss them one bit.

Summer Red Wine Picks

lemberger-Kiona-Washington-wine-reviewsKiona Red Mountain Lemberger, 2013 – Benton City, Washington, $15

Don’t let the cheesy sounding name and low price tag fool you. This red from Kiona Winery is an absolute must have-all year round. Hailing from Eastern Europe, the Lemberger is a relatively obscure grape sometimes known as Blaufränkisch, a late ripening Austrian varietal that produces a spicy, flavor packed wine that somehow manages to pair with just about anything. We’ve only tried a handful of Lembergers in the past, and this one from Kiona is a standout.

Fruit forward, with sturdy, mellow tannins and notes of red raspberry, plum, and spice, you’ll be sure to notice it’s particularly dark violet color and lighter legs, with a juicy, medium body-perfect for pairing with everything from seafood to poultry and more. Drink it with ham, barbecue, sausages…you cannot go wrong with this quaffable beauty of a pick from Kiona Wines. Drink now through 2018.

Varietals – 95% Lemberger, 5% Carmenère

Rating: 93 points, Editors Pick

laplace_madiran-tannat-wine-franceLaplace Madiran Red Blend 2013  – Madiran, France, $15

At under $20 a bottle, this Tannat based red wine (if you don’t already know, we love both French and Uruguayan Tannat red wines for summer) is a steal and a half. Very hard to find, but always worth seeking out, you’ll note it’s typical, rich ruby color and long legs. Refined, elegant and complex, notes of black fruits and leather are present, but like all great Tannats, this powerhouse is followed by a mature, medium body, and silky, rich tannins. Drink now through 2020, if you can find a bottle in stock. Pairs great with grilled duck breast, big, juicy steaks, as well as ribs and lamb chops.

Varietals – 100% Tannat

Rating: 92 points

Matchbook wine reviewsMatchbook Arsonist Red Blend, 2013 – Dunnigan Hills, California, $21.99

Looking for something a bit more daring? Light a fire, and pour a glass of Arsonist, as this California red is nothing but big, bold, and ready to entertain. Dark ruby in color, with a nose of chocolate and leather, you’ll note flavors of black cherries and cassis, dark brambleberry, pepper, and tobacco on the finish. Firm tannins, with just enough oak for structure, Arsonist makes our list for that ‘save it for a rainy day’ category. Bordeaux in style, pair it with a filet, a Porterhouse, or a charred and crusted NY strip steak. Find more great California wines on their website.

Varietals – 52% Petit Verdot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot

Rating: 91 points

best Steak House grilling tipsWeekend plans got rained out? Try this grill-free, oven roasted Porterhouse steak recipe that’s guaranteed to make your rainy day. 

2013-Mercer-estates-malbec-wine-reviewMercer Estates Malbec, 2014 – Horse Heaven Hills, Washington, $26.99

Fruit driven and aromatic, this sleek red wine features a blend primarily comprised of Malbec grapes, along with just a hint of Cabernet Sauvignon to balance out the structure and tannins. With 2014 being one of the hottest, driest years on record, many wines on the west coast of the USA started feeling the effects of weather early on in the year. A warm spring led to an even warmer summer, which pushed harvest time ahead of schedule. It also meant longer hang time for the grapes, developing more complexity of character and flavor. Malolactic fermentation is present, with this blend using new and old French oak barrels to age for 18 mos before the blending process. Jessica Munnell is Mercer’s winemaker in charge, leading the charge to create great Washington State wines. More on our favorite French female winemakers here.

Aromas of dark cassis and concentrated black cherry jam are present, along with menthol, cinnamon, and spice. Chocolate and leather dust is present, creating a round, rich mouthfeel, and and elegant finish. Drink it with ribs on the grill, barbecue basted salmon, or crispy chicken thighs. Indulge even more, and try it with strawberries, dipped in warm dark, chocolate.

Varietals – 88% Malbec, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon

Rating: 9o points

stoller pinot noir wine reviewStoller Family Estates Pinot Noir, 2013 – Dundee Hills, Oregon, $30

From the 90+ point, award winning estate of the Stoller Family in Dundee Hills, Oregon comes this stunner of a Pinot Noir. Perfectly balanced, with a nose of raspberry, cherry and heady floral notes, as well as cola and cinnamon with medium body and soft tannins, it’s the epitome of Oregon Pinot Noir, ready to be paired with anything seafood and lighter fare for your next grilling menu. Try it with a cherry glazed salmon, pickled antipasti, or hard, aromatic cheeses for a contrasted pairing that is sure to please. Find more great Stoller wines on their website.

Varietals – 100% Pinot Noir

Rating: 92 points

Planning to serve grilled pizza, seafood, or lighter fare? Try one of these highly rated whites and rosés, and consider summer officially started.

Summer White & Rosé Wine Picks

matchbook-chasing-venus-sauvignon-blanc-wine-reviewChasing Venus Sauvignon Blanc NV – Marlborough, New Zealand, $16

In 1769, Captain Cook took command of the HMS Endeavor, setting sail for the Pacific to study the passage of the planet Venus across the path of the Sun.  Little did the world know, this was a ruse for Cook’s real agenda: he had been commissioned by the British to find the mysterious and elusive “southern Continent”. The first European to explore New Zealand, he eventually found Australia, and the ‘chasing of Venus’ concluded.

This little gem is part of the Matchbook Wine collective of brands, and our first introduction to their non-US wine portfolio. Notes of herbaceous grass and citrus are present on the nose, with typical NZ grapefruit, gooseberry, and lime on the palate. Floral notes with a bit of passion fruit and guava on the long dry finish make this one or our favorite sauvignon blancs this season. Pair it with cedar planked salmon, shredded kale and blue cheese salad, or coconut crusted shrimp.

Varietals – 100% Sauvignon Blanc

Rating: 92 points

italian-white-wine-reviews-sur sur grillo donnafugataDonnafugato Sur Sur Grillo DOC, 2014 – Sicily, Italy, $22

The word ‘sur sur’, which means cricket, comes from the classical Arabic language, once spoken in Sicily, representing all things spring and new. This little ‘cricket’ is just the thing to take to a picnic, and most certainly to enjoy at an outdoor party or at the beach. Crisp and dry, with notes of white peach, grapefruit, and grassy herbaceousness, Grillo is a bright, simple white that will pair with just about anything seafood or poultry on the grill. Try it with a grilled white pizza with leeks, arugula, and lemon for a special treat. Find more Grillo and other great Sicilian wines by looking for ‘Wines of Sicilia DOC’ on the label.

Rating: 90 points

Mirabeau-Classic-rose-wine-reviewMirabeau Classic Rosé, 2015 – Provence, France, $17.99

Known for it’s dry, food friendly style and crisp, clean flavors, Provence produces some of the best rosé wines in the world.  This award winning pick from Mirabeau is no different. A blend of Syrah and Grenache, don’t let it’s pale color fool you into thinking it isn’t jam-packed with fruits and flavor. Notes of strawberries and citrus are present, with high minerality from the clay and limestone soil in the region. The violet pink rim evokes hints of pomegranate, tart cherries, and crisp, refreshing acidity, making it a great wine pairing for everything from  seafood to pizza Provençal.

The Daily Mail (U.K.) called Mirabeau Classic  “heart-achingly beautiful,” with international wine critics chiming together in agreement. Mirabeau Classic Rosé 2015 was recently awarded a Gold Medal at this year’s International Wine Challenge, the world’s most respected blind-tasting wine competition, from among 400 rosés, hailing from  over 27 countries. Put this wine on your must drink list for summer.

Varietals – 60% Syrah, 40% Grenache

Rating: 94 points

Saved-Rose-Wine-reviewSaved ‘Magic Maker’ Rosé, 2015 – California, $20

From celebrity tattoo artist Scott Campbell and winemaker Clay Brock comes one of the best California rose’s we’ve tried in some time.

According to Campbell, the name ‘SAVED’ represents the freedom and sanctuary one get’s when you fully commit to your passion and true love. Married to actress and mom, Lake Bell, Scott has created not only a great wine in the glass, but in the bottle, too. Using alchemy symbols like gold, tin, silver, and water, as well as motivational messages like “Beliefs Manifest Realities” and “Allow Yourself Greatness”, SAVED’s most recent vintage and label is truly a beauty to behold, and to enjoy.

Uniquely dry, and highly reminiscent of a French style rosé, SAVED is comprised of a blend of red wine grapes-Grenache, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, and Sangiovese. On the nose, it presents lime zest, wild strawberries, melon, and white peach. It is medium bodied, with crisp acidity and a long, lingering finish. Malolactic acid is present, from both American and French oak barreling. High minerality makes it perfect match for food pairing, with an apple, walnut and blue cheese salad being one of our favorites, but it would also pair well with ceviche, sushi, or goat cheese dishes. Chill well, find your best stemware, and savor what summer truly tastes like.

Varietals: Grenache, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, and Sangiovese (percentages unknown)

Rating: 93 points, Editors Pick

Pinot Grigio Wine Reviews-TommasiTommasi Le Rosse Pinot Grigio, 2015 – Veneto, Italy, $17

Much of the Pinot Grigio wines you’ll find on the shelf have become rather run of the mill-flavorless, bland, and just not particularly food friendly. This…is not that! Tommasi Pinot Grigio is grown on a family-run estate, founded in 1902 by Giacomo Tommasi in the village of Pedemonte, which lies in the heart of the Valpolicella Classico region. Grapes are harvested at night, leading to higher acidity due to the cooler temperatures present.

Fermented in stainless steel, you’ll fine this pale, straw colored gem to show notes of lemon peel flint, and high minerality, with white peach and citrus flower on the nose. Very food friendly with a layered, medium body and lingering finish, Tommasi Pinot Grigio would pair well with shrimp or scallops on the grill, as well as cod with a lemon cream sauce or pear tart for dessert. Highly recommended and under $20 a bottle, this is a Pinot Grigio is sure to soon become one of your go-to favorites for summer white wine pairings.

Varietals: 100% Pinot Grigio

Rating: 91 points, Editors Pick

No celebration would be complete without a little bubbly in your glass! Here are three of our favorite summer sparklers, sure to finish off the weekend party plans with a bang.

Summer Sparkling Wine Picks

Cava-wine-reviews-Marques de la concordia brutMarques De La Concordia, MM Reserva Brut Cava, 2010 – Spain, $20

Only produced in exceptional years from hand selected grapes, this cava is a show stopper, and a great way to explore sparklings from Spain. Aged 48 months in cellars before release, it’s creamy, crisp, and well balanced. Fine bubbles are persistent in the glass, with notes of buttery toast and citrus on the nose. Flavors lime zest, tropical fruits, and white flower, with a touch on acidity on the finish. Smoother than a Prosecco or Champagne, Chardonnay lovers will find this cava to be a great choice when you’re looking for something to finish out a meal. Pair MM Reserva de la Familia Brut with creme brulee and fresh fruit, soft cheeses, or a slice of warm apple pie.

Varietals: 30% Chardonnay, 25% Macabeo, 25% Parellada, 20% Xarel.lo

Rating: 90 points

kim crawford fizz wine reviewKim Crawford Marlborough Fizz Methode Traditionnelle, 2009 – Marlborough, New Zealand, $14

Although well known for leading the charge in expanding awareness for New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir wines, Kim Crawford also holds its own in the sparkling category. Taking with the winery calls the ‘very best of what New Zealand has to offer’, they’ve blended Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes from various vineyards, all hand harvested, and developed an elegant take on sparkling wine. Using the Methode Traditionnelle, grapes are whole bunch pressed, cold fermented, and barreled in oak. Secondary fermentation is in the bottle, with nearly 4 years (42 months) on the lees, prior to disgorgement. Notes of yeast and toast are present, with small, persistent bubbles. Flavors of brioche, lemon custard, and apple, as well as white peach are present, with high minerality and a long, dry finish. Pair this sparkler from down under with grilled fish, desserts like lemon souffle, or warm brie and candied walnuts.

Varietals: 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay

Rating: 91 points

bisol-crede-prosecco-wine-reviewBisol Cru Crede Brut, D.O.C.G., NV – Valdobbiadene, Italy – $23

If you’re looking for a wine with ‘personality’, Bisol is likely going to fit the bill. Made from a blend of Glera, Verdiso and Pinot Bianco grapes, the clay terroir in the region, combined with a subsoil of marine sandstone known as “crede”, you’ll get high minerality with a lot of flavor and fruit on the palate. Very food friendly, and perfect for sipping poolside, Bisol Cru Crede showcases tiny, persistent bubbles, a light straw color in the glass, and notes of citrus flower, apples, and tart pears. Fresh and elegant, this is one of our favorite Proseccos for summer. Drink now through 2019.

Varietals:  85% Glera, 10% Pinot Bianco, 5% Verdiso

Rating: 92 points, Editors Pick


  1. […] for warm weather! Instead of your typical Chardonnay or Moscato, look for an Italian white like Donnafugato Sur Sur Grillo DOC, 2014 from the Sicilian region of Italy ($22).  Crisp and dry, with notes of white peach, citrus, and […]

  2. […] for warm weather! Instead of your typical Chardonnay or Moscato, look for an Italian white like Donnafugato Sur Sur Grillo DOC, 2014 from the Sicilian region of Italy ($22).  Crisp and dry, with notes of white peach, citrus, and […]

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