The Top 10 Wines for Summer 2023

Ice storms and blizzards are so yesterday. Literally. Now we’re girding ourselves for the firestorms, floods, and mudslides that we are reasonably sure will be making headlines in the months to come. At least we’ll be well-lubricated along the way, thanks to these 10 dazzling wines that are sure to please palates come bbq season this year.

1. 2019 Dobbes Pinot Noir Grand Assemblage Willamette Valley – This Oregon pinot is a “Grand Assemblage” of multiple vineyards, and whoever did the blending here knew what they were doing. Gorgeous notes of earthy elements meet up with elements of brambly blackberry, cola, black tea, and just a hint of peppermint. The wine keeps going and going… and yet, the price tag is criminally low. Stock up, as it will likely cellar well for a few years, too.

2. 2020 Gary Farrell Chardonnay Russian River Selection – Our love affair with Gary Farrell’s chardonnay continues with this 2020 release, which is as always pretty and quite floral, backed with elements of green apple, caramel, and baking spice. Call it pie-like if you’d like. We won’t judge.

3. 2020 Landmark Vineyards Damaris Reserve Chardonnay Sonoma Coast – Iconic Landmark, this Sonoma Coast chardonnay bursts with honey and lemon, evoking a tea leaf note that tempers the wines otherwise exuberance. Nutty along the way but cleansing in the end, it’s a journey that is overwhelmingly worthwhile at this value-driven price.

4. 2018 Etude Heirloom Pinot Noir Grace Benoist Ranch
– This festive pinot feels built for big occasions and holidays, but it fits right in for summer celebrations, too. Sultry and rich, it finds notes of cherry and chocolate fading to coffee, thyme, and sassafras. Chill it a bit to take the edge off the tannins.

5. 2020 Pike Road Chardonnay Willamette Valley – The best bargain on the list this season is this Oregon chardonnay, which hits it out of the park with all the classic elements of the grape: fresh apple, lemon curd, orange cream, and some guava on the finish. A mild barrel influence is balanced by a lightly spicy kick. All for under 20 bucks.

6. 2010 Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos Vintage Port – We wouldn’t normally drop a fortified wine in our top summer wines list, but we worry that if you don’t buy it now, it’ll be gone before the fall arrives. Vintage Port made in an off year, Graham’s special bottling is an outright jewel, intense with chocolate but tempered on the sweet fruit notes. Hints of cinnamon, nuts, and tea leaf give the finish endless complexity. It’s our top-rated wine of the year so far (and likely to remain there).

7. 2020 Ventisquero Tara White Wine #1 Atacama – This curiously named Chilean wine is actually a chardonnay fermented with native yeast and grown in one of the driest places in the world. Aged in neutral vessels and bottled unfiltered, the cloudy wine is beautifully rich with lemon and green apple notes, taking on a coconut note as the finish arrives. Lovely balance, extremely versatile. 

8. 2019 Sonoma-Cutrer Grand Brut Rose Russian River Valley – A new sparkling wine from our longtime friends at Sonoma-Cutrer, built out of pinot noir and chardonnay grapes and bottled pink. Zippy up front, then floral notes, then a customary touch of strawberry, roses, and vanilla. Light saline cleans the finish up nicely.

9. 2020 Larkmead Cabernet Sauvignon
– Hot weather doesn’t mean you can’t drink a big wine, provided you pair it properly. Throw a steak on the fire. Wrap a cool towel around your head. And pop open this cab-merlot-cab franc blend and enjoy as you fall down the deepest rabbit hole Napa produced during the 2020 fire season.

10. 2021 Elk Cove Estate Pinot Blanc Willamette Valley – Pinot blanc isn’t a wine many gravitate to, but if you run across Elk Cove’s rendition of it, don’t pass it up. Buttery, vanilla-heavy, and slightly grassy, there’s a gentle earthy-salty quality that balances things out. Easygoing but never easy.

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