Summer Wines and Summer Evenings

Our long-awaited summer is here, with its see-saw temperatures of hot days and cool nights. In the hills above Napa Valley, where almost every evening the cooling effects of the Pacific Ocean sweep away the day’s heat (making it an ideal place to ripen grapes), we rarely get to enjoy ourselves outside at nighttime without a sweater. I have come to adore the handful of evenings we get every summer when the day’s hot air remains trapped in the valley, the onshore breezes carrying the coastal fog stalled out at sea for a short time. Those evenings—warm, balmy and virtually insect-free—are the best part of summer. When it looks like one is coming, I try to rearrange our schedule so we can fire up the grill, invite a few friends over and enjoy ourselves in the warm night air with some summer wine.

This summer the wines on our table are the 2010 Olema Chardonnay and the 2011 Amici Sauvignon Blanc. I reach for the Chard when I’m in the mood for something with good acidity, balanced by round, tropical notes that the wine gets from being 50/50 barrel and stainless fermented, and 75% malolactic. It’s superb with cedar plank wild salmon fresh off the grill.

The Sauv Blanc is my choice when I’m looking for a complex wine that has hints of minerality alongside the fruit flavors. I love the elegance of its layers of honeysuckle, guava and melon offset by its clean, wet stone minerality. To create all these complexities Joel blended 80% Sauvignon Musque and 20% Sauvignon Blanc, and barrel fermented 25%.

When plans change at the last minute and we have an impromptu gathering to take advantage of one of those lovely warm evenings outside, I need to keep dinner plans super simple. We like to grill some halibut steaks, seasoned simply with salt and pepper, and finish them with this super simple but wonderfully flavorful Lime Butter Sauce, which I adapted from Gourmet magazine years ago. Serve with Amici Sauvignon Blanc and a balmy evening, and it’s a summer match made in heaven.

Lime Butter Sauce
1/2 large garlic clove, chopped
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsated butter, melted

Puree garlic with lime juice, salt, and pepper in a blender until smooth. With the motor running, add melted butter and blend until emulsified, about 30 seconds.

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