Summer of Wine Love

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It’s the season of wine festivals! Summer celebrates a multitude of grape varietals with wine strolls, festivals and family-friendly outdoor tastings that can be great fun and terrific exposure to new wines.

Now’s your chance! With additional focus on farm-to-table offerings, there’s never been a better time to get out and meet your wine grape growers and winemakers.

Wine Strolls
Some of the most popular wine strolls take place in towns where blocks of businesses pair up with wineries and restaurants to invite guests to meet the owners and learn about new businesses. Try an old vine zinfandel and a chocolate truffle while exploring an art gallery featuring a new artist, then stroll next door to a business showcasing newly arrived merchandise along with a different wine pairing. Tickets to these events often support a non-profit, which makes it even more worthwhile. With this format, you can try several wines, mark your favorites, then visit the wineries on a different day.

Vineyard Hikes
Experiences and activities are great for engaging with local wineries. A popular format used by winery owners is multiple tasting stations in the vineyard to explore the property and taste great wines right where they were grown. Imagine standing in the vineyard, tasting your favorite viognier or grenache among the grapevines where all the magic started. Taking in the local floral, grasses and soil that contributed to that wine grape’s growth can truly enlighten your tasting experience. Local wineries do a great job creating experiences for guests; beginning at the tasting room, a vineyard map points guests to various points in the vineyard where they can safely navigate to the next tasting station. Since many of the grapevines have yet to be harvested, the experience will stay with you for years to come.

Farmers’ Markets
Wine and olive oil are agricultural products. Depending on local ordinances, farmers’ markets increasingly are offering wine tastings and olive oil tastings while visitors peruse locally sourced vegetables, flowers, nuts and breads. Booths are often staffed by the winemaker or winery owner, and guests have the chance to really learn about growing and farming methods and taste how biodynamic and natural wines may compare to more traditional wine labels. Certified farmers’ markets aren’t just for weekends, either. Be sure to check out your local listings for mid-week centralized markets.

Festival Themes
Summer is filled with wine festivals showcasing specific groups of wine varieties. Rhone wine festivals focus on wines of the Rhone region of France, including grape varietals such as Roussanne, grenache blanc, viognier, and marsanne along with grenache, mourvedre and syrah, which produce red wines. One that’s catching the eye of stellar wine makers is picpoul blanc, which flourishes on the vine, producing a very dry white wine that is crisp and perfect for picnic cheeses and dried fruits.

Not surprisingly, zinfandel is another varietal that inspires music, art and food festivals. Zinfandel, known as America’s heritage grape, is celebrated with wine festivals that include desserts, books and foods dedicated to this one varietal. Vineyard hikes among gnarly majestic ancient-vine zinfandel vines can bring out the enthusiast in all of us.

Riesling is another wine that inspires summer festivals. This often-misunderstood German wine grape is extremely versatile, able to produce wines with flavors ranging from tasting very dry and crisp such as jicama fruit to a traditional sweet pear and honey flavor. Summer of riesling promotions may be found in your local restaurants as they showcase riesling wines from all over the world. Another summer favorite is gewürztraminer; even though it’s grown in cooler climates, “gevertz” is lovely with lighter summer foods including Asian salads, sushi and spicy barbeque. Originally a German off-dry wine variety, gevertz has a herbaceous and floral note sometimes thought of as slightly rosy and fruit forward on the palate.

How did summer become the season of festivals? Germany may have something to do with our beloved celebrations of the warmer summer seasons. Noted as one of the friendliest and scenic regions of the world, Germany is also one of the most beautiful and accommodating to festivals of all kinds, including Oktoberfest in the fall, which is celebrated the world over. Folk music, art and libations seem to pair naturally with long summer days! If you’re traveling this season, ask the hotel concierge or Chamber of Commerce for special wine-tourism packages that may include tickets, maps and transportation to local festivals.

Summer tends to be a time to refresh and rejuvenate, connecting with family and friends. Pack your picnic, ice down your waters and explore the wine festivals around you! ■

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