At Scribe Winery in Sonoma Valley, co-owners and brothers Andrew and Adam Mariani produce two expressions of mission, a rustic, low-tannin red varietal they serve lightly chilled. One is a still wine; the other is sparkling. And both are beguiling.
“Low-tannin wines really lend themselves to being chilled — they go hand in hand with freshness,” Adam Mariani says. “Mission is a spicy, peppery grape, but it has a levity and lightness to it. When it’s chilled, it becomes wild, juicy and energetic.”
For Andrew, a light chill “can lift some red wines and focus the fruit.”
“It’s like putting a warm summer peach in the refrigerator,” he says. “The chill gives the fruit a little sharp, refreshing edge — more energy and pop.”
When the mercury rises and barbecues beckon, a glass of chilled red wine can be an unexpected delight. Refreshing and fruity, with a gentle heft, they can be a versatile alternative to white wine or rosé and a welcome guest at a summer gathering.
What to look for
Erin Miller, wine director and sommelier at Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg, has fond memories of sipping chilled red wines at the beach when she lived in the south of France.
“Chilled reds are incredibly quaffable and perfect for a picnic,” she says. “But they can be a serious option at the table, too.”
Miller, who likes to serve chilled reds with cool or room-temperature foods, like salads, charcuterie, pizza or tapas, said there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing and chilling a red.
First, look for light- to medium-bodied red wines that are lower in alcohol, tannin and oak, like a lighter-bodied pinot noir or grenache. Gamay, the fresh, aromatic varietal widely known in Beaujolais, is also a good option.
For chilling, Miller is particularly fond of Camp Rose Cellars 2019 “The Prince,” Sonoma Coast ($38), a surprisingly lean and bright cabernet franc. She also likes Leo Steen 2019 Grenache, Provisor Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley ($42), which has a touch of earthiness.
Next, Miller says, “It’s better to aim for lightly chilled versus ice-cold, because very cold temperatures can emphasize the tannin and oak in a red wine and mask its bouquet.”
For most chillable reds, she suggests aiming for a temperature that is cooler than your kitchen, but not as cold as the refrigerator: somewhere in the ballpark of 45 to 55 degrees.
How to chill out
To chill a red wine quickly, place the bottle in a bucket filled with ice and cold water and chill for about 15 minutes. Don’t let the wine sit too long in the ice water or it will become too cold.
If you have more time, you can place the bottle in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes — just be sure to set a reminder. If you want to chill your red wine in the refrigerator overnight, remove it about 15 to 30 minutes before serving and let it sit on the counter to rise in temperature. Bonus tip: Cold whiskey stones or reusable ice cubes can chill a single glass of wine quickly.
“If you’re interested in a chilled red and are uncertain what to buy or what temperature to aim for, I recommend asking your favorite wine adviser or shop for advice,” Miller says. “Individual wines vary greatly, so it can be helpful to ask someone in the know.”
In the meantime, here are three chilled reds to get you started:
Scribe Winery 2021 Estate Mission, Sonoma, $48, scribewinery.com
Camp Rose Cellars 2019 “The Prince” Cabernet Franc, Sonoma Coast, $38, camprosecellars.com
Leo Steen 2019 Grenache, Provisor Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley, $42, leosteenwines.com
You can reach staff writer Sarah Doyle at 707-521-5478 or firstname.lastname@example.org.