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Picnicking for Winos

Drinking in the great outdoors

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With winter definitely over, it's time to rush outside and enjoy life sprawled out under a tree. Add a soft blanket, a good friend and a bottle of light wine and you have the ingredients for a picnic. Outdoor movies, concerts and fireworks -- prevalent as soon as heat hits our cities -- are perfect excuses to dine under the canopy of the clouds. Wine completes the picture, but choose simple wines you don't have to analyze or swish, only share.

Before packing a picnic, it's best to chill the wine. Forget the archaic tales of drinking only room-temperature red wines... it's perfectly fine to refrigerate reds, as long as you don't forget them in the freezer or something. Same thing goes for whites, which lose their flavor when they're too cold. But for keeping the wine temperate during the journey to the perfect picnic spot, there's a cool gadget called Vacu Vin Rapid Ice Wine Chiller. This handy frozen girdle fits around a wine bottle and keeps it chilled for up to two hours when kept in a cooler. Comes in several funky designs and refreezes easily. It costs around ten bucks.

When choosing your picnic wine, keep the wine uncomplicated and fun, rather than tannic-laden, acerbic or buttery, which might mask lighter picnic fare like salads and roast chicken. But for heavier red meat fare, reach for a chilled Pinot Noir or fruitier Red Zinfandel. Hotter days call for Sauvignon Blanc, and if you're serving up spicy foods, add a slightly sweet Riesling to your basket. For added ease, and to avoid lugging and hassling with a corkscrew, pack a Stelvin screwtop wine (a great conversational piece) or a bottle of bubbly.

So if you're headed to the beach, the mountains or next to a cool river, spread out the blanket, grab glasses and go at it. Summer heat is here whether you like it not, so you might as well maximize the great outdoors.

Recommended Wines

Pierre Sparr 2001 Pinot Blanc Reserve From the German-speaking region of France called Alsace, this crowd-pleasing, humble white wine speaks volumes in clean flavor. Minerally and dripping with citrus. Perfect for sipping. $12

Omaka Springs 2002 Sauvignon Blanc From a small New Zealand producer comes a fantastically refreshing wine. Smacks of peaches and fresh mown grass and has an elegant lingering finish. 1/2 $15

Big Fire 2001 Pinot Gris Extremely cool wine. Coats the tongue with flavors like honeydew melon, lemon and a touch of honey. Nice, balanced acids that provide a sexy, intimate mouthfeel. Simply kick ass wine. 1/2 $11

The Crossings 2002 Sauvignon Blanc Pure, refreshing acidity in this New Zealand juice, perfecting a grape they do so well. It's got passion fruit, kiwi and citrus to boot. This veritable fruit salad would go wonderfully with a seafood salad. 1/2 $16

Murphy Goode 2000 The Deuce Sauvignon Blanc Okay, I love Sauvignon Blanc, even drink lots of it. This is a different style of that grape, with bigger, meatier flavors like butterscotch, toasted almonds and vanilla. Worth the extra dinero. $24

Novella Synergy Paso Robles This non-vintage blend of Zinfandel, Petite Syrah and Sangiovese absolutely rocks. Juicy raspberry has some tannic backbone but begs for food. Grilled chicken, even fried, would easily make friends with this balanced red wine smooth enough for Chardonnay drinkers. $14

Wallace Brook Cellars 2001 Pinot Noir Dark cherry fruit, with a light hint of raisins. A funky hair spray aroma when you first pour it, but it blows off. An unusual Pinot, to say the least, and great stuff for the price. $10

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