A Toast To Late Summer

Perfect California Wines

By Jenny Peters

Having the chance to visit one of California’s beautiful wine regions may not be in the picture. Hopefully, that trip will happen, but until then, here are some of our favorite California wines to sip in the comfort of your home.

From north to south, coast to inland, California makes wonderful wines in 139 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), those regions designated by the U.S. government as distinctive places to grow grapes and make wine. We’re focusing on Rosé, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir, three varietals.

The Napa Valley is the obvious go-to place for California wines, with over 400 wineries in that famed region just north of San Francisco. With so many options, it’s easy to get lost in the myriad choices found there, so we’ve narrowed it down to three favorites.

Shafer Vineyards in the Stags Leap District AVA is one of the valley’s premier wineries, famous for their Cabernet Sauvignon—and for the sheep that they let loose to graze in their vineyards every spring. They even have a “sheep cam” going for all to zone out and watch while sipping on their 2018 Red Shoulder Ranch 25th Anniversary Chardonnay. That’s a gorgeous wine, bursting with citrus flavors, bright acidity, and just a hint of the oak barrels that it spent 14 months nestled inside.

At Silver Trident Winery in Yountville, the go-to wine for late-summer is their 2017 Benevolent Dictator Pinot Noir. This smooth, silky Pinot is amazingly structured, with tastes of cherries and other dark fruits winding through hints of vanilla and toast. It’s perfect for a special night paired with a charcuterie platter, a pile of soft-shell crabs, or a big pan of paella.

Bouchaine’s vineyards in Carneros have been producing grapes since the 19th century; now run by the Copeland family, it’s a place producing world-class Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. For an easy-drinking white, choose their 2016 Estate Chardonnay with rounded tastes of nectarine and an undercurrent of citrus. Splurge on the 2015 Bouchaine Swan Clone Estate Pinot Noir and drown in its juicy strawberry and cherry melding of flavor with a super smooth tannic finish.

Better known as SLO, it’s one of the state’s lesser-known wine areas. It’s a coastal region characterized by two AVAs, the Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande. Here cool sea breezes and warm days are the setting for creating outstanding Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs and Rosés, especially at Tolosa Winery. Their 2018 Edna Valley Primera Pinot Noir is the jewel in their crown, with estate-grown grapes that result in a breathtaking mélange of slightly spicy red fruit flavors in the finished wine. 

At Baileyana Winery, also in SLO’s Edna Valley, they produce a Rosé that you really can drink all day. Their 2018 Rosé of Pinot Noir is light, bright, and full of fruit-forward flavors (think peach, strawberry, and raspberry), with just enough of an acidic structure to make it a neat pairing with everything from popcorn to salad to seafood.


The Santa Ynez Valley AVA, just north of Santa Barbara, is famous for being part of Sideways, the movie that brought Merlot to its knees and uplifted Pinot Noir. In Buellton, you’ll find Hitching Post 2 Restaurant and Winery. You’ll find owners Gray Hartley and Frank Ostini producing the much-admired Pinot Noirs as they have for decades. We suggest the high-end 2016 Julia’s Vineyard Pinot for a rich, fruity taste or the less-dear 2016 Cork Dancer Pinot for a dark, berry-flavored quaff.

Buellton’s Margerum Wine Company makes some distinctive red wines, but we go for their 2019 Riviera Rosé, concocted with Grenache and Syrah grapes. It’s a light pink drink with hints of watermelon and a strong acidic structure.

The Temecula Wine Valley AVA was established in 1984 and is one of the state’s southernmost wine regions, located inland between Los Angeles and San Diego. Their vintners grow many varietals on lovely estates, including Robert Renzoni Vineyards, where their 2019 Lyric Rosé is a lusciously deep pink wine made from Syrah grapes. Syrah thrives in Temecula and this delicate creation tastes of peaches and sunshine.

Syrah does so well here that we had to throw in one late-summer outlier, the 2016 Fazeli Cellars Syrah. This big red signature wine with its smooth, dense flavor notes of blackberries and black pepper is perfect for outdoor or indoor dining experience.

All wines are available in the New York metro area, and all can be ordered direct from the winery as well.

Quick Bites

Appetizing Dips

By Sean-Patrick M. Hillman

Believe it or not, I am not a big fan of avocados. My wife Kylie loves them. My mother is a big fan, too. So, when I make guacamole, they go crazy. Given the time of year, and popularity of Mexican fare right now, I thought you would enjoy these two very easy recipes that provide a delicious adventure for your palette!


4 avocados peeled and pitted
2 limes juiced
1 tablespoon of sea salt
¾ cup diced sweet onion (Vidalia or Malibu)
4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
3 Roma (plum) tomatoes diced
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 pinch of cayenne pepper or ¼ of a diced jalapeno pepper (no seeds)

In a medium bowl, mash the avocados, then stir in lime juice and salt. Mix in onion, cilantro, tomatoes, and garlic. Stir in cayenne pepper or jalapeno. Refrigerate for one hour for best flavor and consistency or serve immediately.


3 Roma (plum) tomatoes diced
1 sweet onion (Vidalia or Maui) diced
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro chopped
½ lime freshly squeezed
1 teaspoon of sea salt

Preparation In a medium bowl, mix the diced tomatoes, diced onion and chopped fresh cilantro. Add sea salt and lime juice. Refrigerate for one hour.

Salsa needs to be as fresh, light, and flavorful as possible without overpowering. This recipe is a nice and clean version that you could easily make on-the-go, or to entertain guests. Some people include jalapeno in their salsa, so if that is what you wish, add one pepper, seeded, and finely chopped to the ingredients. Any more than a single pepper will overpower the dish.

Buen Provecho!