As the weather warms up, many of us are anticipating lazy summertime gatherings in the park. After all, what’s better than a blanket, some charcuterie and shade, and a nice cold bottle of wine?
But what wine pairs best with freshly mowed grass and the scent of daffodils? Should you opt for a cold bottle of white for an afternoon watching the clouds, or maybe pick up something orange or red? We went straight to the experts and asked 12 renowned sommeliers what they would recommend for a chill and friendly rendezvous in the park. Grab one (or more) of these bottles and get to relaxing.
“Where’s Linus? is a joint venture between natural wine importers Jenny & Francois and winemaker Chris Christensen of Bodkin wines. The goal was to make an affordable line of California natural wines, and Christensen knocks it out of the park (pun intended) with this one. It’s a blend of Petite Sirah and Zinfandel from an organic, dry-farmed vineyard in Mendocino County. Its deceptively deep color and ripe berry fruit make it a surefire crowd pleaser, but the tannins and alcohol are dialed way down. The acid is zippy and fresh, and there’s just enough savory rusticity and natural wine cred to make you and your crew feel one with the outdoors. Needless to say, it’s one of my favorite picnic and park wines.” —Randall Middleton, sommelier, Esters Wine Shop & Bar in Santa Monica, Calif.
“A killer park wine is also one of my favorite wines that we’ve poured in the past couple years: the Ocho Do U Believe? from DoReMi winery in Kartli, Georgia. It’s an orange wine from the Mtsvane grape, made in the traditional Georgian method of six months on the skins and six months in underground clay vessels called qvevri. Nothing is added to the wine at any stage in the process. The wine is fresh with a ton of stone fruit and backed by soft tea-like tannins. Drink it chilled but not too cold to allow the aromas to bloom in the glass. The bottle has a striking image of a tur, a wild goat of the Caucasus Mountains (the entire line of Ocho Wines have striking images of animals native to Georgia and close to extinction). For a traditional Georgian amber wine, this wine drinks much lighter and less tannic than what many folks associate with this style. Both contemplative and crushable at the same time!” —Zach Negin, owner, Tabula Rasa Bar, Los Angeles
“My park hangout wine for this summer would be Vivanterre’s Orange Contact SGS. It’s a project by Patrick Bouju and Justine Loiseau, some of the most respected names in natural winemaking in France. This orange wine is a blend of Gewürztraminer, Sylvaner, and Sauvignon Blanc with a vine average age of 50 years old sourced from Alsace and the Loire Valley. It’s super fun and highly crushable. Think about sitting on a picnic blanket on a hot, summer afternoon with friends while enjoying a chilled bottle of this wine. I don’t want a serious, intellectual wine (but if that’s your thing, no judgments here!), just something that is refreshing yet interesting that I’d want to keep on sipping as I chat away and enjoy the day.” —Paula de Pano, sommelier and owner, Rocks + Acid Wine Shop, Chapel Hill, N.C.
“As the weather gets warmer, I start to gravitate towards island wines. This wine is made from a grape called Biancolella and comes from the small island of Ischia, which is just off the coast of Naples. When I am sipping wine in the park, I’m often snacking as well. This wine has a slightly salty characteristic that makes it an ideal partner for a cheese and charcuterie selection. It also has lots of acidity and a hint of tropical fruit which makes it a refreshing choice from a sunny day spent with friends.” —Celia Erickson, wine director for Delicious Hospitality Group, NYC.
“When I think of picnics, I always envision lighter dishes. For me, an incredibly versatile wine to have in mind would be a still rosé, and in specific, Bandol rosé. I’m in love with the 2020 vintage of Domaine Tempier Rosé, which is just ripe strawberry and red cherries, with a mélange of stone fruits and herbs. It has a dense, weighty texture without being too heavy, and beautiful acidity. This would be a perfect match for cheese, cured meats, any raw sashimi or poke dishes (being in Hawaii), and sandwiches. I like to have either some kimchi crab poke or a simple sandwich with Brillat-Savarin triple cream cheese, Prosciutto, arugula with a touch of aged balsamic on a baguette.” —Derrin Abac, general manager and sommelier, Spago at the Four Seasons Resort, Maui, Hawaii.
“If my picnic doesn’t include Wander-Must’s Verdelho, I don’t want it. This dry but oh-so-juicy white wine is literally sunshine in a can — think notes of bright lemon, pear, and apple.
I’m also crushing on Janell Dusi’s Pinot Grigio from her winery J Dusi in Paso Robles. It’s super clean and crisp thanks to stainless steel aging and is bursting with notes of apricot and pear. Her story is fascinating, and I love knowing I’m supporting an amazing female winemaker with every sip!” —Warner Dowlearn, certified specialist of wine at Maker Wine, Novato, Calif.
“The wine I would bring on a picnic is the 2019 Trimbach Pinot Blanc. It is crisp and refreshing, with beautiful acidity that pairs with most foods. As a bonus, it has a screw cap so there’s no need to pack a corkscrew.” —Sarah Foote, director of wine & service at Castle Hot Springs, Morristown, Ariz.
“The easy choice here for most people is rosé. While I can’t argue that rosé is usually a safe choice, I prefer something a bit more under the radar, exciting, and easy to crush without thinking too much about it. The 2019 Domaine Danjou Banessy Coste Côtes Catalanes Blanc has been one of my favorite value white wines for a few vintages. It’s bright, crisp, aromatic, refreshing and gently textured with incredible salty minerality that drives the wine. It tastes a bit like how you would describe spring in a glass.” —Courtney Wieland, director of private clients, Thatcher’s Wine, NYC
“Park wines are the best times! We often have people pop into one of the shops on a sunny day looking for rosé, orange wine, or a pét-nat. We always offer some cups and a wine key, because both of those are crucial for a successful hang. Pét-nats are great because they usually have a crown cap that just pops off and are usually lower-ABV which makes them incredibly crushable during the day.
Some of my current favorite wines to bring to a park hang are the 2020 Piquenique Wines Big Island Cuvee (apple and pear wine!) and NV Chateau de Minière Bulles de Minière Rosé, Bourgueil, Cabernet Franc (super delicate and fun).” —Helen Johannesen, owner of Helen’s Wines, Los Angeles
“ This wine is from the Grave region in Bordeaux, but the Mary Taylor Selection wines overall are some of the best examples of wines from specific regions around the world. The moment I tasted this wine, it reminded me of being carefree in the sunshine, with its notes of fragrant Meyer lemon, white nectarine, minerality, and a dry finish. It’s simply mouthwatering on a sunny day.” —Tonya Pitts, wine consultant and wine director, One Market, San Francisco
“As the weather warms up, I’m always finding ways to move my social hangs outdoors. With that being said, I like chillable reds when it comes time to partake in picnic foods. You can pop this delicious, medium-bodied red wine from Montesecondo (based in the heart of the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany) in the fridge the night before and it will gently warm up over the course of time in the park. This wine is made from 100 percent Sangiovese, so I always envision a beautiful lunch of salumi and cheese under the Tuscan sun when I open a bottle of this wine. This wine is full of notes of sour cherry and a gentle touch of cedar. When chilled it brings a refreshing brightness to the wine that will help cut through richer foods but won’t overwhelm more delicate offerings.” —Devon D’Arcangelo, wine director, Grandmaster Recorders, Los Angeles
“Made with a blend of Grenache and Syrah, the bouquet and palate of this wine showcases sweet red plum, raspberry, and roses. Tense, crisp, refreshing and dry with crushed stone mineral, medium-plus acidity and a lengthy fruit-filled finish. Balanced, fresh, and ready to enjoy!” —Cameron Douglas, master sommelier, New Zealand