When you're taking out the speedboat, you pack the cooler with beer, but when you're taking out the sailboat, you carry along a Sancerre. A crisp, cool white wine provides the perfect accompaniment to the harbor breeze and a light summer meal.
1989 Chateau Laville Haut-Brion
at High Cotton, Old Village Post House, and SNOB
$550 a bottle
High Cotton: Downtown. 199 E. Bay St. 724-3815; Old Village Post House: Mt. Pleasant. 101 Pitt St. 388-8935; Slightly North of Broad: Downtown. 192 E. Bay St. 723-3424.
The Maverick restaurant group recently created a reserve wine list that will make you feel flush with intoxication before you've even ordered a glass. Featuring 32 rare and precious wines from around the world, the extravagant list separates the wines into three categories — Whites, New World Reds, and Old World Reds. Maverick's infinitely charming and knowledgeable sommelier Patrick Emerson suggests this white Bordeaux for a summertime indulgence. He first tasted the wine, produced at the Chateau Laville Haut-Brion vineyard in the Pessac-Leognan region of Bordeaux, at the Distinctively Charleston Food + Wine festival back in March. Emerson was so impressed with the wine's aromatic richness — filled with notes of peach blossom and honeysuckle — that he had to have it for Maverick's wine list. No small feat, production is kept very low.
Ca Montini, Sauvignon Blanc
at Robert's of Charleston
$83 as part of a five-course wine dinner
Downtown. 182 E. Bay St. 577-7565.
The wine list — or lack thereof — is not the only unusual aspect of Robert's. Chef Robert Dickson entertains diners at the AAA four-diamond-rated restaurant with songs while his daughter MariElena mans the kitchen and her husband Joseph manages the front of the house. Robert's has one seating per evening, where palates are entertained as much as eardrums during the five-course wine-paired meal, which changes monthly. This August, five Italian wines are served alongside five traditional Italian dishes. The third course features the Ca Montini, Sauvignon Blanc. The grape is not one traditionally grown in Italy, but the Ca Montini vineyard is located in the Trentino region, far north near Austria. You can taste the Alps in this aromatic white wine, which plays nicely off the earthy, smoky sweetness of the accompanying Gorgonzola-stuffed pears served with pancetta and a lemon vinaigrette.
2005 Rudi Wiest Riesling
West Ashley. 1720 Sam Rittenberg Blvd. 573-8778.
Amuse is an inconspicuous tapas restaurant in West Ashley where the food belies its location — their most immediate neighbor being a dollar store. Their mantra is "Life is too short to drink bad wine" and their wine list succeeds in making this both possible and affordable. Amuse serves 30 different wines by the glass and an additional 40 selections by the bottle. Tuesday through Saturday they offer wine flights — five wines for $5 — from 5-7 p.m. For food friendliness, the Rudi Wiest Riesling is a summer surprise. A bargain at $20 a bottle, this Riesling, from the Rheinhessen region of Germany, has a crisp acidity and a sweet ripe fruit finish. Amuse suggests pairing the Riesling with their fried Manchego and spicy tomato salsa dish.
2004 Alvarinho Trajadura, Auratus
$8 a glass, $31 a bottle
Downtown. 453 King St. 853-8466.
Raval is the ideal place to enjoy a cocktail and a snack before dinner or cap off an evening with a bottle of wine and a bowl of olives. Their wine list explores the grapes of Spain, a wine-growing country that has become muy caliente among foodies for its quality and value. The Alvarinho/Trajadura, a high-end vino verde, offers the same refreshing respite that the rest of Raval's wine list aims for. The wine is produced by the Auratus vineyard in Portugal near the border of green Spain, resulting in a bright, lemony white with nice acidity — perfect for pairing with their apple salad, or goat cheese and honey.
La Craie Vouvray 2003
at Oak Steakhouse
$9 a glass, $28 a bottle
Downtown. 17 Broad St. 722-4220.
Oak's wine list plays up big Cabs and deep flavors to enhance the rich steakhouse menu. But recently, they've been featuring this crisp Vouvray from the Loire Valley in France to help diners cool off from the intense summertime heat. "It's a perfect wine to pair with a light seafood appetizer or to sip on while sitting out on the porch with friends," says General Manager Michael Beford. The grapes are hand-picked and the approachable wine is light and refreshing, but still goes well with a dish like baby spinach salad or jumbo shrimp cocktail.