Wine picnic

When planning your perfect al fresco dining experience this summer, be sure to include a bottle of wine to make the most of your picnic fun.

Choose something light, bright and palate pleasing — and make sure the wine doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Here is a list of 13 wines that will please a picnicker’s palate.


Start locally with 2016 Campus Craft White ($16), a joint effort between Wollersheim Winery and UW-Madison’s Fermentation Sciences Program. The semi-dry wine — made from a blend of locally grown Frontenac Gris, St. Pepin, La Crosse, Edelweiss and LaCrescent grapes — is light, airy and delightfully delicate on both the nose and palate. Proceeds from the sale help support the Fermentation Sciences Program.

For something a little sweeter, try 2015 Nine Hats Columbia Valley Riesling ($15). The Washington-state winery has tapped the valley’s oldest vines to produce a wine that speaks of pear and honeydew melon, with a fine acidity and long finish.

From neighboring Oregon, 2015 King Estate Willamette Valley Pinot Gris ($19) spins a different tale. The bright, straw-colored wine offers flavors of pear, lime and a touch of wild honey with every sip.

Travel to Spain with 2015 Martín Códax Rías Baixas Albariño ($17). Known as the “wine of the sea,” the crisp, dry Albariño offer flavors of apples, peaches and even a touch of lemon, with a brisk acidity to make it a very food-friendly selection.

Italy has its own summer white, the 2014 Pieropan Soave Classico DOC ($21), produced from Garganega (85 percent) and Trebbiano di Soave (15 percent) grapes. Expect aromas of almonds and marzipan, followed by a juicy palate of apple, apricots and nuts.

New Zealand long ago established its reputation with Sauvignon Blancs, and once again succeeds with the 2016 Whitehaven Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($19). The wine’s bright tropical-fruit palate offers a hint of lemongrass framed with a clean, crisp finish.


The 2015 Ravage Cabernet Sauvignon ($13) sets a spritely pace among reds. The deep red California blend — Cabernet Sauvignon (76 percent), Merlot (10 percent), Zinfandel (10 percent) and other reds (4 percent) — offers flavors of vanilla, mocha and dark fruits wrapped in soft tannins for a fine finish.

Oregon’s Columbia Valley surfaces again with North by Northwest Red Blend ($16), another King Estate wine. Composed of Syrah (39 percent), Merlot (38 percent) and Cabernet Sauvignon (23 percent), the wine pours dark red with a violet tinge and aromas of currants and clove. Expect a robust palate with hints of coffee, chocolate, cassis and other surprises.

The 2015 Pinot Noir ($21) from J Vineyards and Winery in Healdsburg, California, is notable for its wide sourcing of grapes from Monterey County (70 percent), Sonoma County (26 percent) and Santa Barbara County (4 percent). The result is a rich red with an aroma of cherry and spice notes and a jammy palate of plum, black pepper — and even a touch of cola.

For a different style of red, try the Tridente Mencía ($15) from Spain. The purplish-black Mencía grape produces a smooth and light wine with subtle raspberry and black currant overtones. Think of a slightly raw Cabernet Franc and you have some idea what you’re in for.

Argentine vintner Don Miguel Gascón was proud enough of his recent wine to name it Colosal Red Blend ($14). The amalgam of Malbec (61 percent), Bonarda (16 percent), Syrah (13 percent) and Cabernet Sauvignon (10 percent) produces a justifiably big wine with flavors of blackberry and plum blending with hints of oak, chocolate and other flavors that help Colosal lives up to its name.

It’s hard to sip the Lambert Estate Wines 2012 Mustang Sally Shiraz ($15) without hearing Wilson Pickett’s 1966 soul classic in your head. This big, bold, oak-aged beauty from Australia’s Barossa Valley pours a deep garnet with aromas of vanilla and plum and flavors of cherries, cinnamon and even a little eucalyptus on the palate.

Ottimino Zinfinity 2014 Sonoma County Zinfandel ($17) seems a perfect wine to end this list. A blend of Zinfandel grapes from five different vineyards, each with its own characteristics, Zinfinity has a nose of blackberry, bramble and black plum. Those essences join with oak nuances and hints of raspberry on the palate to produce a truly satisfying wine — perfect for picnics either outdoors or in.


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