June 21 is the official start of summer -- summer solstice -- and also the longest day of the year. My grandfather used to joke that the days would be getting shorter now. I don't mind that as long as I have some terrific wines to toast summer evenings. Here are 10 to try.
V.Q.A., Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
This single-vineyard, 100% Semillon is very pleasant with lovely notes of white peach and apricot. Soft acidity and medium-bodied. It's an amazingly lovely aperitif. Try it with seafood. Drink: 2013-2015. 177758 12.50% XD 750 mL $17.95 Score: 88/100.
Südtirol-Alto Adige, Italy
Terrific refreshment! Limes, chives and lemon lift on the nose and palate. Great aperitif or food companion to many dishes. Clean and crisp right through to the finish. I can see a sunny patio now with this wine. Pair with: avocado and papaya salad, basil pesto, a salad featuring chopped apple and oranges. Drink: 2012-2015. 627059 13.50% XD 750 mL $16.95 Score: 88/100.
Lovely, especially for the price! Rich and round with green apple aromas and a toasty goodness. The grapes for this chardonnay were handpicked and then the wine was barrel-fermented for extra creaminess and texture. There's some golden lemon notes on the finish. Leaves you longing for more. Pair with: broccoli mornay, cheese fondue, planked salmon, sea bass in a cream sauce, turkey, vegetable stir-fry. Drink: 2013-2015. 1461 14.50% XD 750 mL $14.95 Score: 89/100.
Sonoma County, California,
A terrific Californian chardonnay with vibrant notes of green apple, butter and toasted almond. It's full-bodied, but not heavy. Here's your layered liquid sunshine in a bottle with finishes with a toffeed, butterscotch kiss. Perfect for games night. Pair with: basil pesto, prawn bisque, turkey. Drink: 2012-2015. 30791 13.50% D 750 mL $19.95 Score: 89/100.
Hawkes Bay, North Island, New Zealand
Refreshing and crisp with white peach and green apple notes. Love the zesty goodness throughout this medium-bodied wine. The style of this wine makes it very versatile with a wide range of dishes and palates: great for your next party. Pair with: avocado and papaya salad, basil pesto, frittata, radicchio. Drink: 2013-2015. 32292 12.50% XD 750 mL $17.95 Score: 89/100.
Guadalupe Valley, Baja California, Mexico:
One of the best values year after year when you want straight-up black fruit pleasure. Trimmed with oak, but not too much.... But hey you're seriously not analyzing this at $11.95? Thought so. Fire up the grill. Pair with: spicy black bean dishes, grilled steaks. Drink: 2013-2015. 983742 14% XD 750 mL $11.95 Score: 87/100.
Coastal Region, South Africa
Juicy purple and black plum aromas with dark spice. Full-bodied, but not heavy. This wine is a non-traditional blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera and Nebbiolo grapes. Some terrific notes of cherry and blackberry on the finish. I love this producer's sense of humour as evident by the name of this wine and others. Pair with: meat lovers' pizza, chicken wings, grilled burgers, sausages. Drink: 2012-2015. 11072 14.60% D 750 mL $14.95 Score: 88/100.
Mendocino, Amador, Lake Counties, California
This organic wine is juicy and mouth-watering and full-bodied. Mocha, dark chocolate and black fleshy plum flavours. This is an amazing barbecue wine that will dance with hamburgers, steak and your tastebuds. Slather on the fixins and top up of your glass! Pair with: lamb shanks, chicken, pizza, barbecued spareribs, rustic Italian dishes, hearty stews. Drink: 2012-2015. 530139 14.50% XD 750 mL $19.95 Score: 89/100.
Western Cape, South Africa
Terrific red for the money! Robust, juicy and savoury with attractive black plum aromas and flavours. Some grip on the palate is satisfying with steak. Decant 1 hour. Pair with: steak. Drink: 2013-2015. 561142 14.30% XD 750 mL $15.95 Score: 89/100.
Barossa Valley, South Australia
Juicy and generous with flavours that keep on coming in layered pleasure. Bring on the plums, cue the blackberries! Full-bodied weight, yet this wine is also balanced and complex. It's priced very well for this quality. I'd drink it with a pepper steak. Top me up! Pair with: char-grilled beef, blackened chicken, black bean soup, blue cheese, peppercorn steak. Drink: 2012-2016. 15495 14.50% D 750 mL $19.95 Score: 90/100.