8 Wine Pairings For All Of Your Summer Situations

After a winter we thought would never end, summer — complete with its yellow sunshine and outdoor weddings and trips to the beach — is finally here. Summer practically demands fun. Sometimes though, it demands taking a break from other people’s fun. (Summer of 2012 and my eight bridesmaids dresses, I’m looking at you!) The best way to get through each and every fiesta? A perfect glass of wine.

Since researching my new novel, Eight Hundred Grapes (a messy, raucous family comedy which takes place on a family vineyard in Sonoma’s wine country), I fancy myself something of a wine expert.

Eight hundred grapes is the number of grapes in a bottle of wine (See? I told you I was knew a little something!) And picking the perfect 800 is the key to making any summer celebration more celebratory.

You know how the right song changes the vibe? The right bottle of wine is the vibe, and once you’ve sipped on these stellar choices, you’ll never say, I’m fine drinking whatever, again. Being fine with drinking whatever leads to chardonnay. Which rarely leads anywhere good. (Not that I’m saying you should hate all chardonnay. Just most.)

So… without further ado, let’s get drinking!

For The Night You Get Engaged

Champagne/Sparkling Wine


Try: Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs

If there’s ever an occasion that requires bubbles, this is it. But if you associate quality champagne with its most famous brand, Dom Perignon (at $150 a pop), it can feel daunting. Here’a a money-saving tip: champagne refers to a specific region in France. The region is great at what they do, but if you pick wisely (think: bone dry, aged well), you’ll find great sparkling wines from Italy, France’s Loire Valley, and California. And you’ll save the cash. You know, for Vera Wang.

For a Great Three Day Weekend...



Try: Chateau Miraval Rosé

Nothing says lovely summer afternoon like a rosé. Luscious and refreshing, a great bottle of rosé (and you can find a great bottle for south of $20) is the perfect companion for the pool, a rooftop, an Oceanside potluck. Pretty much anywhere there’s sun. I’m a fan of slightly less sweet varietals. The drier the rosé, the more food-friendly.

If your guy friends think a rosé is too feminine, remind them that Brad Pitt makes a great one. (And then tell them that they’re drinking it.)

...That You Had to Work Straight Through



Try: Melville Syrah

A winemaker once told me that drinking a good syrah was akin to drinking confidence. Strong, exotic, and gorgeous in the glass. It feels like an escape — maybe not the escape you imagined, but an escape all the same. Go ahead, pick one that isn’t cheap — that’s what the (extra) money’s for.

For a Great Summer Party

Sauvignon Blanc


Try: Duckhorn Vineyards

A silky Sauvignon Blanc won’t weigh your guests down, and allows for day-into-night drinking. If you’re serving just one wine on a hot day (or a hot night), this should be it. Great for backyard barbecues, fish dinners, and spicy tapas. Also, great to put right in the tapas!

For the Afterparty


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Try: Avigonesi Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano

Try saying that five times fast. Montepulciano. A little off the beaten path, this is a great Italian red. Intense and spicy. And the perfect way to fend off the late night breeze. Stormy weather. 2 a.m. If you’re staying at the after party to finally talk to somesome, this is the glass of wine you want to give him or her a sip of. (Note: A sip. You just met this person. It’s no time to give away the good wine.)

For Drinking With the Bride...


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Try: La Marca Prosecco

I’ve been in enough bridal suites to know you don’t show up empty handed. It’s too dangerous. My bottle of choice? Prosecco, aka Italian bubbles. A great bottle will run you $14. And if you bring strawberries to drop in the bottom of the flute, you’ll make the bride’s day. (That, and if you remember to bring the flutes.)

For Drinking With the groom


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Try: Pio Cesare

A special occasion Italian to beat out pretty much any other special occasion drink. Super-ripe and tasty, a good Barolo defines bold and bawdy wine. I promise the groom will tell you it’s the best wine he’s ever tasted. (Before he switches back to his scotch.)

For the First Day of Summer... and the Last

Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

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Try: Lynmar Estates

Winemakers in the Russian River Valley seem to have the secret for producing the most delicious wine in the world.That’s why I have the family in Eight Hundred Grapes make their wine there. You can choose pretty much any pinot noir from the region and you’ll be met with a lush, yummy wine. Jammy and bright. This is the chameleon of delicious wines, moving along with your moods and whims.

The perfect way to start your summer. The only way to end it.

You know what? Start your summer right now with a glass. It will lead to greatness. (And an inability to suffer terrible wine ever again. But, you know, so worth it.)

Images: Getty Images (8)