We all love a good summer wine guide, especially as the weather warms up, pool floaties come out, and our social media feeds overflow with colorful photos of people living their best life, delicious looking tipples in-hand. But this summer, we want to take it a bit further, and encourage you to 1) drink local, and 2) get out of your comfort zone!
With that in mind, we asked Temecula Valley winemakers what their perfect summer wines are, using some of the weird and wonderful grapes that shine in our Southern California wine country. The result? A comprehensive summer sipping guide to help you select something tasty – and unique – from your favorite Temecula Valley wineries for these warmer months…and beyond.
Robert Renzoni Vineyards 2022 Vermentino – Dos Fernando’s Vineyard, Temecula Valley, $30
“Vermentino is the absolute perfect summer wine,” says Olivia Bue, winemaker for Robert Renzoni Vineyards. “It’s a thin-skinned white variety that thrives in warmer climate regions. It can handle drought and is a late-ripening grape, so it really has time to develop those dense flavors on the vine.”
If you love bright, crisp white wines like Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc, Vermentino is a great alternative. “Its minerality, light citrus notes like lemongrass and mandarin, and the unique oily texture make it a standout and the perfect bridge between Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay,” adds Olivia. “Light bodied, yet complex.”
While Vermentino is a versatile wine when it comes to pairings, it’s particularly good with pesto or seafood pasta. Olivia recommends artichokes as well.
Leoness Cellars Cellar Selection 2018 Cinsaut, Temecula Valley, $30
“This is a big, fleshy grape with a fairly thick skin that is somewhat drought resistant, so it’s well-suited to our often dry growing season,” says Leoness winemaker Tim Kramer. “It produces large grape clusters with lots of red cherry flavors, making it a great lighter-bodied red wine. As a side note, we also use this variety for our Port-style wine, and it works wonderfully, letting those bright red fruit aromas and flavors shine, while providing the complexity of a traditional port wine.”
Cinsaut (sometimes spelled “Cinsault”) is one of the grapes often found in small percentages in blends from France’s Rhône Valley, as well as in some French rosés. It’s rarely found as a varietal wine. However, in the hands of Temecula Valley winemakers, it shines on its own. The addition of a small time in neutral French oak barrels for this particular bottling adds body and complexity, while still allowing the fruit to show through.
It’s also a leaner, fresher wine, which makes it a great red wine for summer. “Since our Cinsaut is made in a lighter style, the fruitiness of the varietal really stands out, giving the wine a refreshing character on a hot day,” says Tim. “It can be served slightly chilled as well and will still deliver fresh red cherries on the palate.”
This summer, you can pop a bottle of this with just about anything, but Tim swears by classic BBQ: “Smoked pulled pork topped with blue cheese coleslaw on a Hawaiian roll paired with our Cinsaut is magic!”
Peltzer Winery 2022 Albariño, Temecula Valley
“The cooling effect that pours over the valley floor of Temecula allows us to grow some other varieties not common in California,” says Marcel Velasco, Peltzer Winery’s Cellar Master. “The thicker skins of Albariño protect against the heat swells, and careful canopy management can help produce a white wine that boasts both body and acidity.”
While Albariño is most widely associated with the Rías Baixas region of northwestern Spain, it is grown throughout the world in places like Portugal, where it is known as Alvarinho, Uruguay, and, of course, California, where it tends to be fuller bodied and plush, but still crisp and refreshing. “The best wines on a hot day usually have one thing in common – acid,” says Moriah Wilson, operations and marketing manager for Peltzer Winery. “Produced in a warmer climate style, our 2022 Albariño features those ripe stone fruit notes with light floral aromatics. The bright acidity saturates the palate with notes of ruby grapefruit with slight minerality on the finish.”
According to Moriah, this warm-weather sipper pairs beautifully with watermelon and tomato salad, fish tacos, creamy to mid-texture cheeses, or just by itself on a summer day.
Churon Winery 2022 Ruby Rosé, Temecula Valley, $33
This juicy wine is made from estate Ruby Cabernet – a grape that is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Carignan – produced like a white wine. Churon’s winemaker Benny Rodriguez used a light touch when pressing, so as not to extract too much color. The wine was cold fermented to preserve the fruit flavors, and left with 2% residual sugar, giving it just enough sweetness to make it a fun, easy-drinking summer rosé.
“Ruby Cabernet was specifically developed for warmer climates, hence its ability to grow very well in the Temecula Valley,” says Benny. “It has good resistance to heat while still producing fruity wines similar to Cabernet Sauvignon.”
While dry rosés abound, this one has that hint of sweetness that gives it a distinct Jolly Rancher vibe. “Rosé on a summer’s day is as natural as a splash in the pool,” says Benny. “The wine is sweet and fruity with a berry taste that is nice and refreshing in the summer.”
Sweet wines are actually wonderfully food-friendly. Try this one with fresh fruit topped with a dash of salty-spicy (and seriously addictive) Tajín seasoning, a fruit dessert, salty cheeses, spicy BBQ dishes, or a veggie pesto flatbread.
Avensole Winery 2021 Dry Muscat Canelli, Temecula Valley, $34
Visitors to Temecula Valley will readily find the aromatic Muscat Canelli in tasting rooms. “Even though it is a very delicate variety which has sensitive skin to sun exposure, as long as we have good canopy management and shade, this variety shines with the heat of Temecula Valley, expressing its varietal characteristics of floral and tropical aromas,” says Avensole’s winemaker, Renato Saís. “It must be picked early so it can be produced to its full potential.”
The Muscat grape is one of the oldest grape varieties being grown to produce wine, appearing all over the world for centuries. It can be used to make sweet, dry, sparkling, and dessert wines. “Our Dry Muscat Canelli’s floral aromas, fruity flavors, balanced acidity, and refreshing finish make it an ideal choice for summer sipping,” says Renato.
Perfect for fresh summer cuisine, Renato suggests pairing this with herb and almond-crusted Mahi Mahi with poblano and cauliflower puree, roasted cauliflower, and picked micro-radish. If he’s not coming over to cook that for you, pop a bottle of Muscat Canelli with just about any exotic or spicy Asian cuisine for a match made in heaven.
Cougar Vineyard and Winery Estate Falanghina, Temecula Valley, $29
No need to master the pronunciation of this white grape, originally hailing from southern Italy. All you need to know is that it produces gorgeous, bright, full-bodied white wines with great intensity of flavor and juicy acidity.
“We produce our 100% Falanghina using slow fermentation in stainless steel tanks to maintain the fruit characteristics of the wine,” says Cougar’s owner and winemaker Rick Buffington. “This grape thrives in Temecula because it likes the heat and the dry, warm climate, well-draining decomposed granite soil, and cool nights.”
Falanghina could very well become your new house white wine this summer. “The high acidity and low pH make for a crisp, dry, refreshing sipper,” says Rick.
Pair this wine with fish, oysters, or chili-lime grilled shrimp. According to Rick, “You can’t wrong with any seafood.”
Palumbo Family Vineyards & Winery 2017 Due Rossi, Temecula Valley, $56
A blend of 70% Sangiovese and 30% Merlot that owners Nick and Cindy Palumbo have been producing for years, this wine was inspired by their trip to the Tuscan region of Italy back in 2002. “The wine region just south of Sienna is known for Brunello Di Montalcino, AKA Sangiovese wines from this specific region,” says Nick. “We sourced cuttings for our own vineyards from this region specifically because I found myself thinking, ‘I feel like I’m at work’ when I looked over the vineyards in that area, as it reminded me of our home in Temecula Wine Country. In fact, after a day or two in the region, we headed to the Northern lakes of Italy to actually feel like we were on vacation!”
While this is a relatively full-bodied red, it nevertheless goes down easy in the warmer months, and is great for a wide range of classic summer dishes from the grill. “Summer means complex but easy-drinking wines and this wine gives you both,” continues Nick. “It is a ‘big’ enough wine to stand up to hearty dishes and has the complexity to impress even the most discerning palate but is as smooth as a breeze by the ocean.”
A great grilling wine, Nick suggests pairing this one with cool friends and hot pastrami. “Or fire up the BBQ, grill a porterhouse and some veggies, then jump in the pool.”