Three tasty ways to kick off the season, from a classic cocktail to wines for grilled fare
Credit: Randy Mayor

Summertime is the season for a kir (KEER), the traditional French wine cocktail of cold white wine and crème de cassis. An authentic kir is made with aligoté, a tart, dry white wine from France. Since aligoté can be hard to find in the States, I like to use a good Oregon pinot gris or Italian pinot grigio, both of which are crisp and fresh. Add about 1 tablespoon of crème de cassis (a black currant-flavored liqueur) per glass. The traditional way to do this is to pour the cassis over an inverted spoon so that it streams into the wine like a fountain.

Libations for grilling
Standing in front of the grill-tongs in one hand, a glass of wine in the other-is a rite of summer. The best wines with grilled fare are those that are bold, easy to drink, and affordable. Here are three of my favorites.

Vionta Albariño 2006 from Rias Baixas, Spain
The white Spanish wine albariño is perfect with fish (in Spain, the two are considered a classic match). Albariño's clean, crisp, citrusy, light character is an ideal complement for grilled fish. Try it for yourself, and open a bottle to serve with our Herb-Stuffed Red Snapper or Striped Bass with Lemon-Caper Salt .

La Vieille Ferme Rosé 2006 from Côtes de Ventoux, France
If you're serving a sweet or fruity barbecue sauce with fish, meat, or veggies, here's your wine. This dry French rosé combines the fruitiness of red wine with the cold refreshing bite of white. La Vieille Ferme (which means "the old farm") is a steal, and its light, crisp cherry flavors and terrific acidity make it thirst-quenching.

Rodney Strong Estate Knotty Vines Zinfandel 2005 from Russian River Valley, California
When you have spicy meat on the grill, think zinfandel-its thick softness cushions the spices, while its juicy berry quality complements the char of the meat. This zinfandel is soft and rich with hints of vanilla and cherries. Try it with Pork Tacos with Corn-Jicama Salsa and Guacamole .

Best wine for veggies and salads
More than any other white wine variety, sauvignon blanc has a green herbal touch. Salads, of course, are generally green, and sauvignon blanc mirrors the fresh greens in the salad. Sauvignon blancs range from those with a mild citrusy green flavor to those with bolder green qualities. A mild one is Beringer Sauvignon Blanc 2006 from California's Napa Valley. An assertive one is Matua Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2006 from Marlborough, New Zealand; try it with Grilled Peaches over Arugula with Goat Cheese and Prosciutto .