For me, every season of the year has associations with different beverages. The fall is football and beer and porches and cool evenings and sipping whiskey and the winter is cold nights snuggling with stouts and shredding the mountain with a backpack full of Euphoria Pale Ale. Spring goes perfectly with really fresh IPAs and Mint Julips. Summer is good for drinking almost anything, but I actually love love love wine during the summer.
Even though I specialize in beer, I love all kinds of fermented beverages. Once upon a time I even worked at a winery and wine was what I wanted to do. But Durango is a beer town, and if I wanted to keep learning and growing, I knew I’d have to switch to beer or move to California. The thing that I love about wine and fruit-based fermentations is the complexity out of simplicity: all you have is the fruit, the yeast and time. There’s no mill, no extraction, no boil, but all the character from wines and ciders comes from the fermentation, aging and blending.
On top of all that, wine and cider are amazing summer drinks. Drinking wine while camping or rafting or any outdoor summer outdoor activity will get you some sideways looks, but a super cold glass of Riesling in the sun is really refreshing. The hardest part about wine though, is the glassware, the proper tools for opening bottles, etc. It’s kind of a pain in the ass, unless you’re carrying around a big plastic bag of wine (this is the preferred way I’ve seen backpackers and rafters carry their wine). The way I get around this when I want to take wine on the river or to soak in some hot springs, is fill a Nalgene bottle with a bottle of wine and top it off with ice. I also search out easy-to-open containers such as screw tops and cans (yes, cans of wine).
I mentioned Riesling above, but my absolute favorite summer wines are Vinho Verdes. With a slight bit of carbonation and a very dry acidic tartness, Vihno Verdes go great with your typical summer food. Vinho Verde is not a variety of grape, but is really a winemaking region of Portugal with a unique method for making the wine. It’s slightly carbonated, traditionally from a secondary malolactic fermentation, and lighter in alcohol because of the use of young grapes that don’t have the sugar content of stronger white wines. And the best part is they are usually very cheap, in the $7-10 range. Most of them have a screw top which makes it easy access on picnics and what not.
Along the same lines, but more of a summer-patio, brunch-outside, sip-all-day type, is Prosecco. Similar to Champagne, Prosecco is a dry sparkling white wine made in Italy. It’s also made using a different process, carbonated in a steel vessel instead of in the bottle. On top of it being a little more accessible in flavor, it’s also a good cheap alternative to Champagne. There are also some brands of Prosecco that are in small format bottles and even some in cans (the Sofia by Coppola is widely available. It’s technically a “sparkling white wine” but is made using similar grapes and technique as Prosecco, but it’s all made in California instead of Italy).
And if you haven’t tried anything by Denver’s urban winery, Infinite Monkey Theorem, go do that now. They’re an urban winery, which means they don’t own any vines or orchards, but buy the fruit or juice from farmers. They have a nice little lineup of wines, reds and whites, and a pear cider as well. The best part about Infinite Monkey: they can. I highly recommend the dry-hopped pear cider. It’s crisp and fruity, definitely pear, but also aromas of soft tropical fruits and melons. It’s very dry, with a little head that dissipates quickly. There’s a very subtle hop presence, just enough to make itself known, but not a bitterness at all. A very delicate and refreshing cider with beautiful bubbles. Yeah, it comes out of a can but is still very classy when poured into stemware.
Robert Alan Wendeborn puts the bubbles in the beer at Ska Brewing Company. His first book of poetry, “The Blank Target,” was published this past spring by The Lettered Streets Press and is available at Maria’s Bookshop. [email protected]