Dustin Wilson, MS: Wind-Down Wines for Late Summer

Late August is one of my favorite times of the year. The days are long, the nights are hot, and a hefty pour of something delicious is never too far away. This low-stress moment is perfect for kicking back with friends and savoring something delicious before the ‘back to reality’ rush of September starts.

People frequently ask me what I’m drinking during warmer weather months, and to be honest, it changes a lot. There are so many great regions and producers to be discovered -- after all, that's one of the joys of working with wine. However, I’ve had my eye on a few special picks this summer that have definitely become staples in my drinking regimen (and will most likely stick around during the months to come). 

Take Terrasen’s Blaufränkisch Rosé and Keller ‘Limestone,’ for example. Living in New York City, I spend a lot of time in Central Park: picnics, socially-distant hangs, runs around the reservoir -- you get the idea. Warm afternoons in the park scream for something refreshing, so I tend to stick with zesty whites, crisp rosés, or an easy-drinking red that I can slap a chill on. 

This year, I’ve shifted my rosé focus away from Provence and have been checking out other regions. My buddy Thomas Pastuszak is making some seriously delicious stuff up in the Finger Lakes. His Blaufränkisch Rosé is everything you want from crisp pink wine: it’s refreshing, it’s fruit-driven, and it pairs perfect with a variety of picnic basket favorites (cheese, fresh watermelon, bagels with lox from Barney Greengrass - New Yorkers, you know what i’m talking about… the list goes on). For white, I’ve been gravitating towards Keller ‘Limestone’ more often than not. Riesling gets a bad rep, but bone-dry expressions like this one are absolutely killer for outdoor summer sipping. Throw these acid-driven bottles in your backpack, pack your favorite snacks, and don’t forget some handy GoVino ‘glassware’ (and a corkscrew, of course). 

Like most of you, I’m also missing travel more than ever. Although hopping a flight and jetting off to somewhere exotic is off the table for the moment, I’ve used quite a bit of time this summer to get outdoors and (safely) explore the States. After a long day of trekking outdoors or sitting on the beach, this is what my palate tends to crave. (PS, if you’ve been venturing out, don’t forget to wear your mask! I’ve been rocking mine from Todd Snyder.) No matter the adventure, I always make sure to have a few crisp whites and chillable reds on hand. 

Lately, I can’t get enough of the single-vineyard bottlings from Eleni and Edouard Vocoret. This dynamic duo is breathing new life into Burgundy’s most northerly region. My top two picks at the moment are ‘En Boucheran’ and ‘Le Bas de Chapelot.’ Fruit for the former comes from a vineyard site located between the 1er crus of Montmains and Vaillons, and the wine is loaded with flavors of green apple, white flower petals, and crushed seashells. Fruit for ‘Le Bas de Chapelot’ comes from a site just below the 1er cru of Montée de Tonnerre. The wine is steely, chalky, and straight up delicious. If summer raw bar favorites are on the menu, I’m grabbing one of these bottles for sure.

In the ‘chillable red’ realm, I generally look for something laden with acid and light on the tannins. This could be an array of things: Pinot Noir, Frappato, Schiava… the list goes on. However, Gamay is generally always my top pick for something chilled. This summer, I’ve spent some time revisiting the classics, and unsurprisingly, the ‘Gang of Four’ has still got it. Jean-Paul Thévenet’s Morgon is honestly a happy medium for all situations. It’s bright enough to chill and sip solo, yet its muscular backbone and concentrated fruit-forwardness make it great for popping with summer barbecue snacks. 

For some non-French options of similar structure and appeal, I can’t recommend Luis Seabra’s wines enough. These vibrant and thought-provoking bottles are produced from organically-farmed indigenous Portuguese varieties with whole clusters. If you like stems as much as I do (think Dujac, de Montille, and Allemand), you’re going to love these wines. Sip chilled with all things grilled (burgers, hot dogs, veggies) and get ready to have your mind blown. 

Last but not least, bubbles. I don’t know about you, but this year has really taught me to celebrate the little things in life -- work victories, personal goals, or a simple bit of good news from a friend. Dhondt-Grellet’s ‘Dans Un Premier Temps’ has had a regular presence in my fridge, though if I’m being honest, my consumption of these bubbles is definitely not limited to summer. I drink this wine year-round and with a variety of foods, regardless of if there’s something to ‘celebrate’ or not. Honestly, this wine is a celebration in itself. Truth be told, it’s really hard to find Champagne, nonetheless delicious, organic, and seriously thought-provoking Champagne, at less than $50 bucks a pop. Whether catching the sunset on the Hudson River, soaking up the heat at Rockaway Beach, or simply closing out a long day of prepping for our new Chicago location, this bottle always feels just right. 

These last few weeks of summer go quickly, and as sad as I am to see the season go, I’m always pumped for what’s ahead. For me, this means a new Verve location (look out, Lincoln Park!), a soon-to-open restaurant in New York, and a whole lot of other projects I can’t wait to share with you. Stay tuned, stay healthy, and most of all, stay hydrated! Cheers to an epic last few weeks of summer.

- Dustin

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