Oregon wines offer pleasant alternative
By Beverly Calder
We live in the land of beef, lamb and elk steaks. It’s what we love to eat and for most of the year, it’s easy to match the foods we love with a big red wine.
When the mercury climbs and the temperature rises and stays high, those big red wines aren’t the perfect match for the foods we cook over flames and the meals we enjoy outside.
Fortunately, there are many options for wines that are perfect for hot summer days that pair deliciously with the fresh foods and simple meals we tend to enjoy this time of year. You really have to look no further than the sun- drenched Mediterranean and learn a few new names — Vinho Tinto, Cotes du Rhone, Crianza and most importantly Rosé.
I know it may sound shocking but it’s true, some pink wines are very, very good wines. The rosé wines of the Mediterranean are simply red wines made without the skins and oak barrels.
These wines are dry and full flavored with complex aromas and are brilliant with everything from sticky barbecue ribs to grilled trout. Because they are made without the long-term fermentation on the grape skins, the wines are softer and more lush.
The Mediterranean region has been producing wines for millennia. The history of winemaking and the relationship between moderate consumption and good health has been well documented and popularized by the publication of the French Paradox.
Typically, the wines from Spain, Portugal, southern Italy and France are blended from multiple grape types rather than a single varietal. Blending is the artistry of winemaking and is a way of creating a wine that is meant to be consumed in its youth.
These wines are not built for aging and will actually lose much of their appeal after a few years. They are also priced very affordably as they are traditionally made without using new oak barrels (which can cost more than $800).
The other important detail about summer wine selections is temperature. We’ve all heard “serve at room temperature” but in the U.S., normal room temperature hovers around 70 degrees.
When a wine label suggests room temperature, it’s really meant for someone living in a European castle where room temperature is a nearly constant 60 degrees.
The easiest thing to do with our lifestyles, and our current lack of castles, is to put the bottle of wine in the chiller for 15-20 minutes before opening.
I know it sounds crazy, red wine in the fridge, but it’s absolutely true. You’ll notice the difference the first time you try it.
Take a sip of red wine that is at its proper “room” temperature of 55 to 60 degrees and be amazed by its lush, fruit forward flavors that would be lost in a warmer wine.
You’ll notice the sweet bouquet that is normally masked by alcohol (at normal room temperature) and you can actually smell and taste the evolution of the wine as it opens in the glass. (Just remember to swirl, sniff and sip — every glass is a wine education in itself.)
Enjoy living in the bounty of Oregon knowing that hoppy ales are not the only alternative when the temperature soars. There are many truly delicious wines to discover that will also enhance your favorite summer meals.
Beverly Calder is the owner of Bella’s in Baker City and La Grande.