Off-Dry Wines for the Summer Months

Summer is officially upon us. And those hot days on the beach or warm evenings in the backyard are the perfect time to break out Kendall-Jackson’s Muscat Canelli or Riesling.

Muscat Canelli is part of the large Muscat family, a very ancient grape variety common throughout wine-growing Europe, from Greece and Italy into France. Riesling, of course, is the famous grape of the Rhine and Mosel river valleys of western Germany, as well as nearby Alsace, in France.

Both of these white wines are defined as “off-dry,” which means they’re not as bone dry as, say, Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc, yet they also have a lingering sweetness that’s simply delicious. (Technically, off-dry wines contain a trace of residual sugar—natural grape sugars that remain after the fermentation is completed.) Our grapes are grown, of course, only in cool coastal valleys, so that acidities are perfect; without acidity, a semi-sweet wine isn’t balanced. In Riesling’s case, the grapes are almost exclusively from our vineyards in Monterey County. Our Muscat Canelli mostly comes from Lake County, where the days are warm and the nights chill fast, thanks to the effects of radiational cooling.

Neither our Riesling nor our Muscat Canelli ever sees a trace of oak. The wines are fermented in stainless steel tanks, ensuring fresh fruitiness and a tangy, mouthwatering liveliness. It’s hard to imagine better wines for the summer months.

Kendall-Jackson Chef Justin Wangler suggests some perfect pairings for Riesling: Asian fare, pork, sea bass, sweet barbecue, corn bread.

What foods would you pair them with? Well, either is great on its own, as a cocktail sipper. Want to make a cooler by adding sliced peaches or strawberries? Go right ahead: winemaker Randy Ullom won’t object. Sunday brunch? Both wines are modest in alcohol, and will happily wash down an omelet or crêpes. Kendall-Jackson Chef Justin Wangler suggests some perfect pairings for Riesling: Asian fare, pork, sea bass, sweet barbecue, corn bread. Muscat Canelli’s exotic tropical fruit, Mandarin orange, Asian pear and spice notes call for Asian or Indian food, cheesecake and fruit, or crab cakes with a mango-salsa dressing. Baked ham’s smoke-cured sweetness, spiced with a little mustard, will also fall in love with Muscat.

So here’s to a warm, happy summer! Salud!

Steve Heimoff is one of America’s most respected and well-known wine writers. The former West Coast Editor for Wine Enthusiast Magazine and a contributor to Wine Spectator, he has also authored two books on the subject of California wine, including “New Classic Winemakers of California: Conversations with Steve Heimoff,” published in the fall of 2007.