Top 10 Essentials For A Wine-Happy Summer (+ Memorial Day), The California Edition

A Busy Day For Winemaker Karl Wente
A Busy Day For Winemaker Karl Wente

Summer may finally be almost here -- Happy Memorial Day weekend, by the way -- but in California it's just another wine season. And so as you trade our bottles of Cabernet for Riesling, we bring you our Top 10 Essentials For a Wine-Happy Summer. And yes, yoga is involved. It's California, after all. Turn the page.

10. Winemaker Karl Wente's Yoga Video:

This is really just to get you warmed up for summer fun. Karl Wente sounds like pretty much every other 30-something today who is keen on wine (he is now the winemaker at his family's longstanding namesake Livermore Valley winery), music (he often comes to L.A. for guitar jam sessions), and of course, yoga (see above; no comment). Wente apparently does his yoga at work -- in the middle of the winery. And at the airport, and in his custom-built home yoga studio (yeah, his family has sold a lot of wine over the decades). In this video, he talks about how yoga heightens his awareness of the aromas and flavor profiles of wine. But after you get past the first mandatory minute of staid winery introductions, it's pretty hiliarious. Suddenly Wente starts doing headstands and bakasanas, European loafers and all, on the winery's cement floor. Did we mention that he is 6 foot 7?

9. Wine Jugs To-Go:

Our current favorite summer dinner party choice: Take what looks like a beer growler filled with wine for your host. If you're in Santa Barbara, Municipal Winemaker's David Potter has great rotating To-Go offerings ($20 for 1 liter), and also try the To-Go Growlers at Carr Winery a few blocks away.

8. What to Eat With What You Drink:

Five years and counting, this book by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page is still our favorite wine pairing guide. Mainly because it isn't so much a guide, but a brilliant list of flavor suggestions. You can look things up in the standard pairing way - by wine grape, or style of wine or beer (milk, coffee and soda, too). But you can also look up specific dishes (pork barbecue) that can get pretty hilariously specific (Kentucky Fried Chicken pairs well with Pinot Noir and Gewürztraminer). It's the sort of book that's instant summer party fun as you pull out the pimento cheese and mayo-drenched potato salad to stump those California wine geeks.

7. Ventura Limoncello:

Sure, it's not wine, but who cares when for a few locally-produced sips you can pretend you are spending your summer in Italy? This great, intensely scented limoncello (about $23, widely available in SoCal) has no bitter pith. None. Just ask Rossana Zaretti.

6. Ceja Vineyards' Recipes:

If you've ever met the matriarch of the Ceja family, Amelia Ceja, you know she is one hell of a firecracker in a tiny package (we mean that in a positive way). Get her going, and Ceja will tell you how much she loves cooking as much as she does wine. Try their Pinot Noir and limited release sparkling wines, by the way (and if you're up in Napa this summer, the tasting room is a gorgeous indoor/outdoor must-see). She also happens to have some of her great summer recipes, like salmon ceviche, spicy cornbread, Mexican mango cake, on the winery's website in videos that are narrated by her granddaughter, Dalia Ceja.

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