The cool choices for hot weather

May 09, 1993

Out of some 65 wines tasted in a hunt for the best summertime indulgences, these stood out -- not only as fine wines, but as appropriate for the time of year. Wines are listed in rough order of preference. Some prices are approximate.

WHITE WINES

* 1992 The Williamsburg Winery Governor's White ($7, Virginia). This wine is the very soul of a summer wine. The two next wines are slightly more complex, but this gave the most exuberant dose of pure unbridled pleasure in the tasting. Electric flavors of honey, peach, pear and melon seem to leap out of this crisp, off-dry wine. The grape varieties aren't listed, but it tastes like riesling with a dollop of the underrated vidal, a French-American hybrid grape. This is a fleeting pleasure, though. Buy a case and polish off the last bottle on Labor Day weekend.

* 1991 Hermann J. Weimer Dry Johannisberg Riesling, Finger Lakes ($8, New York). A crisp, dry wine with blade-like precision, this is as close to fine Alsace riesling as an American wine gets. Besides lively fruit, this riesling has a steely, mineral quality that truly conveys the character of a great vineyard. A wine for all seasons.

* 1991 Latah Creek Johannisberg Riesling ($8.49, Washington state). This delicious, mildly sweet wine has plenty of body, but lots of racy acidity to balance it out. Oozing flavors of honey, pear, peach and tangerine, it's a natural to accompany spicy Oriental food.

* 1991 Latah Creek Dry Johannisberg Riesling ($8.49, Washington state). Not quite bone dry, this crisp, fruity wine with excellent mineral flavors is mouth-filling but not overbearing. Its creamy texture strongly resembles a top-notch German halbtrocken (half-dry) wine from Germany's Rheinhessen.

* 1991 Sokol Blosser Riesling, Yamhill County ($9, Oregon). This crisp, structured, slightly off-dry wine offers generous apple and peach flavors that closely approximate a fine German kabinett wine.

* 1991 Merkelbach Kinheimer Rosenberg Riesling Qualitatswein, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer ($9/liter, Germany). Here's a real mouthful of nervy, intense apple-y acidity. There's a fresh, clean feel to this off-dry beauty, selected by importer Terry Theise.

* Trefethen Eshcol White Table Wine ($7, California). This nonvintage blend combines 89 percent chardonnay and 11 percent riesling. The riesling gives the chardonnay that extra edge of acidity California chardonnay often needs. The wine has exotic, coconut, banana and pear flavor, with a light hint of vanilla from the oak.

* 1991 Ponzi Pinot Gris ($9, Oregon). Do you ever grill salmon? This is your baby. This full-bodied, bone-dry wine with hints of mineral and herbs would be perfect with a firm, fleshy, flavorful fish.

* 1991 The Hogue Cellars Semillon ($7, Washington state). Right away, the freshness of the aroma stands out, like a Pacific Northwest forest after a rain. It has a crisp, mineral-y character with hints of lemon and pear. Another salmon special.

* 1991 Seghesio Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley ($9, California). Unlike most of the 1991 California sauvignon blancs tasted, this wine hasn't lost a step. It's weighty enough to have authority, but there's still a fresh melon-pear-fig quality to it. Grill some fish for this gem.

* 1992 Marquis de Chasse Bordeaux ($7, France). This sprightly, fresh proprietary white wine is bone dry, but with a juicy, herbal, smoky ripeness that is anything but austere. Perfect for oysters or grilled shrimp.

* 1992 Rosenblum Cellars Sem-Chard, Sonoma County ($10, California). This fine, fresh blend of 51 percent semillon and 49 percent chardonnay has green apple, pear and banana flavors, a creamy texture and a light kiss of oak. It would be more appealing at $8.

* 1992 Chateau Ste. Michelle Johannisberg Riesling, Columbia Valley ($7, Washington state). Not only is this wine fresh, spicy and very well-balanced -- it's also widely distributed. It seems drier than in past years, but with no loss in charm. America's best mass-produced wine?

Honorable mention

* 1992 Chateau de la Chesnaie, Muscadet de Sevre et Maine Sur Lie ($6, France).

MA * 1990 Chateau de la Ragaoutiere, Muscadet de Sevre et Maine,

Les Frere Couillard ($6, France).

* 1992 Chaddsford Spring Wine ($7, Pennsylvania).

* 1991 Domaine de la Guicharde Cotes du Rhone ($9, France).

* 1991 Estancia Estates Chardonnay, Monterey ($7, California).

* 1991 Pine Ridge Napa Valley Chenin Blanc, Yountville ($9).

RED WINES

* 1992 Clos de Gilroy Grenache, Bonny Doon Vineyards ($6, California). This fruity, exuberant red wine is just loaded with raspberry flavors. Like a fine Beaujolais cru, only more peppery.

* 1991 Domaine du Vissoux, Beaujolais Cuvee Traditionelle, unfiltered ($9, France). This fruity, structured red has loads of raspberry fruit and a classic Beaujolais vibrancy and character.

* 1991 Jean-Marc Aujoux Moulin-a-Vent ($9.49, France). An excellent, well-layered bundle of raspberry fruit and a worthy competitor of Duboeuf.

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