Summer sips that make a palatable splash

My friend Kathy arrived ready to roll, quite literally rolling two pieces of luggage as she exited the terminal. Her arrival to Ft. Myers, Florida from Boston was prompted by her thirst for some vitamin D. Following a year-plus of lockdown, she was primed and more than ready for a few splashes. The first splash was a pour from a bottle of Angels & Cowboys Sonoma County 2020 Rosé. This barely pink-toned grenache-based rosé, sourced from one of my favorite vineyard spots in California: Russian River and Dry Creek Valleys, is modestly priced at $15.99.

One sip and I was transported to my time living in Northern California and driving along the Russian River for wine tastings in Dry Creek Valley. This is a stellar region for rosé production, especially when said rosé is made with grenache grapes. But wait, there’s more. A touch of syrah, carignan and pinot noir adds finesse to the final product.

Another sip transported me to the French Riviera, where rosé wine tastes much like this Angels & Cowboys version. A slight hint of citrus and ripened strawberries on the nose led to a palate of delicate-infusion of pulverized sweet-tart candy and pixie sticks, but with a soft mouthfeel. And just like that I was transported to joyful childhood memories of filling a brown bag with penny candy.

The only thing better than this rosé would be its sister sparkling version, a Brut Rosé made in the traditional Champagne method (secondary fermentation in the bottle for fine bubbles). Kathy and I toasted to being fully vaccinated as we cozied into the wicker rattan furniture on the screen-covered lanai in her second home, a.k.a. snowbird escape. Front and center was the heated pool, which served as our centerpiece; we jumped in for a splash soon enough.

Angels & Cowboys Brut Rosé paired nicely with the act of two friends catching up and enjoying some overdue fun in the sun. At $24 a bottle, this bubbly is one to keep in the wine refrigerator for moments like this, when a plate of artisanal cheeses from Brent, TheCheeseGuy.com is all that we want for dinner.

One bite of Ghost Pepper Jack vegetarian cheese would have brought Kathy to her knees, but she had seen the wrapper and decided to test out a nibble. “Once you get past the initial heat, it’s delicious,” she said, but stopped after a few bites. I opted for the Viney Sheep aged over 9 months in red wine, made from the milk of grass-fed sheep of Italy. This was one of the best cheeses I’ve ever tasted and I’m happy to share it’s lactose-free.

This sparkling rosé is an iconic blend of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier, sourced from Mendocino and Sonoma counties (Sonoma pinot noir rocks my world!) from vintages 2012 to 2018. It’s bouquet of bright fruit and crisp minerality led to tastes of licorice and watermelon in the lightest taste.  

This spring, Ondine Chattan, head winemaker for Share a Splash Wine co., released a Cannonball Chardonnay from grapes sourced from Coastal California vineyards. Share a Splash was started in 2006 as Cannonball Wine Company. At the helm, Yoav Gilat’s vision was to create the best $20 California Cabernet. The company expanded to a portfolio that includes Cannonball, ELEVEN by Cannonball, Angels & Cowboys, New Zealand’s Astrolabe Wines and High Dive Napa Valley.

I opened a bottle of Ondine’s Cannonball Chardonnay (2019) and wondered about the label of a boy crouched in the cannonball position above waves. How does this relate to a chardonnay? Well, one has to have dexterity and balance and exhibit a fearless persona to be able to perfect the summer splash of a cannonball from a pool’s diving board. This chardonnay happens to exhibit an uninhibited spirit of liveliness that begins with its fun twist-off, easy to open cap. The bouquet is like a first kiss — of oak — and leads to a stone fruit with a slight pineapple finish. You’ll be craving a lemon meringue pie once you taste this, so you should probably make the pie before opening a bottle. ($15.99)

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