Summer Sipping with Hoda Kotb and The Today Show

You know I always love a trip to NYC and the Today Show to hang with my ladies, Kathie Lee and Hoda Kotb. This time, I was with my old partner in crime, Ray Isle from Food and Wine, and we showcased our favorite summertime wines. From sparkling wine in a can and day drinking whites to sultry summer night reds and even wine in a box, we have something for everyone when the temperatures soar.


Day Drinking

Ray’s pick: Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay, Livermore Valley, California, $18, Wente Vineyards

This peachy, full-bodied Chardonnay from America’s oldest, continuously operated family-owned winery (founded in 1883) stays crisp thanks to the cool growing season in California’s Livermore Valley.


Leslie’s pick: 2017 Mar de Frades ‘Albarino Atlantico’, Rias Baixas, Spain, $20, Mar de Frades

This is one of my top summer whites because it’s the epitome of refreshing. Made with northwestern Spain’s famed Albariño grape variety and features floral aromas and a crisp citrusy flavor. An alluring ocean-blue bottle makes it as attractive to look at, as it is delicious to drink. Pair it with fresh fish to capture the feel of being alongside the water.


Night Sipper

Ray’s pick: Cosentino ‘The Dark’ red blend, Lodi, California, $20, Cosentino Winery

A rich red from Lodi, this peppery, plummy blend of Petite Sarah, Petit Verdot and Cabernet is dark (appropriate, given the name) and luscious, ideal for a date-night dinner.


Leslie’s pick: 2015 Shooting Star Zinfandel, Lake County, California, $14, Steele Wines

Winemaker Jed Steele has been crafting top Golden State wines for nearly 50 years and his experience shows in this affordable yet complex red. Hearty and full-bodied with a spicy kick, it’s the wine to ease into night when served alongside grilled meats and rich pasta dishes.

Beach Refresher

Ray’s pick: Ah-So Rosé, Spain, $19 for 4 cans, Ah-So Wines

Spain’s Navarra region produces the Garnacha grapes for this vibrant, refreshing rosé. Chill down a few four-packs of these cheeky pink cans for your next beach party — or for anywhere that glass bottles aren’t welcome.

Leslie’s pick: House Wine Brut Bubbles, American wine, $6 per can, House Wine

How often do you take bubbles to the beach? Now you can with House Wines sparkling in a can. Easy to quaff with juicy flavors that are crafted in a dry-style, this fizz is pure fun.

BBQ Pairing

Ray’s pick: Beso de Sol Sangria, Spain, $20 for a 3-liter box, Beso Del Sol Sangria

Sangria in the summer is one of Spain’s great contributions to the world! Made from Tempranillo together with the flavors of Spanish oranges, lemons and a touch of cinnamon, this juicy, all-natural sangria — delicious over ice — is also low in alcohol than regular wine (about 8.5 percent) and in calories, too (only 74 per serving).

Leslie’s pick: Bota Box Dry Rosé, California $25 for a 3-liter box, Bota Box

M. J. Wickham

This is the first boxed wine that I’ve truly fallen in love with sipping. Usually, I drink wines-in-box for the convenience, but this wine is simply succulent. Dry yet fruity with pink grapefruit and strawberry notes, it’s a wine to pair with everything … or nothing at all. The 3-liter box size stays fresh for up to a month and containing the equivalent of four bottles per box, it’s a value at around $6 per bottle. You’ll want a box in your refrigerator the whole summer long.

“Wine” Down Summer – End of Summer Wine Picks

The end of summer is a little sad. The sun sets earlier, the kids are either back to school or gearing up for it and it feels like the freedom of summer has ended. But let’s be honest, the weather will still be gorgeous (or hot and humid depending on where you live) for weeks AFTER Labor Day, so take the time to enjoy it! Try these amazing end of summer wines that I’ve selected and enjoy the last days of summer, for at least the next month. 


Riesling and Rosé are sexy sippers and two of the best options for al fresco pairing. Go for Riesling with seared salmon and mango salsa and think pink with burgers hot off the grill.


2015 Eroica Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington $22

The Eroica (named after a Beethoven Symphony) from Washington State is one of the country’s best examples of Riesling. With a whisper of sweetness, it’s a refreshingly succulent white. This joint project of Chateau Ste. Michelle and Germany’s Dr. Loosen is an ideal way to celebrate Washington Wine Month in August.


2016 Saved “Magic Maker” Rosé, California $20

Saved is a wine label from tattoo artist, Scott Campbell, and celebrates following your passions in life. This crisp, orange-peel scented, Grenache-based wine is a magical pink to drink year-round as it saddles up to summer fare as easily as cool-weather roast pork with chutney.

Tip: Slushy-style “Frosé” is getting attention, but you don’t need to do anything more than leave the cork (or screwcap) off and put the bottle in the freezer overnight.


Summer Party Circuit

Squeeze in every opportunity to celebrate the waning days of summer with these creative party ideas:


2014  Spellbound Petite Sirah, California $15

Even though the solar eclipse is over, you can celebrate the celestial by sipping Spellbound’s “Eclipse” label Petite Sirah, depicting the cycle of the moon. It’s a savory, full-bodied red that works with meat dishes as easily as chocolate. Give it a try with chocolate moon-pies for a whimsical dessert.


Cheese & Wine Pairing Party

With the long Labor Day weekend coming plan to have an end-of-summer interactive gathering pairing wine and cheese. Have each guest bring a different style of cheese and you provide a variety of wines to taste and mix and match. With this downloadable grid to hand out, it becomes a deliciously fun evening.


We all know how well hearty red wines like Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon go with aged, hard cheeses. Even Chardonnay is a star avec fromage, but what about showcasing SURPRISE SIPS that most folks don’t think about when pairing wine and cheese: Sparkling and Sauvignon Blanc.


Korbel Extra Dry sparkling, California $12

From the historic California sparkling wine producer, Korbel, comes a sporty, wave-inspired bottle that makes summer sipping easy. This one has a touch of sweetness that makes it a unique pick to pair alongside salty blue cheese with a drizzle of honey.


2016 Natura Sauvignon Blanc, Valle Central, Chile $12

Hailing from the cool reaches of Chile, this is zesty, dry white with tangy citrus flavors is made with organically-grown grapes. It’s an ideal match with fresh cheeses like feta, goat cheese and ricotta. Serve with a variety of jams like apricot and peach for cheese-pairing perfection.



Whether it’s back to school you’re celebrating or just settling into the fall routine, this duo of Italian wines will take you easily from hot days to cool nights.


2015 Carpineto “Dogajolo” Rosso, Toscano, Italy $15

The Dogajolo from famed Italian winery, Carpineto, is a fantastic value at under $15 and showcases an appealing label evoking images of fall leaves. Pronounced “doga-yolo” the name is inspired by the wood staves used in oak barrels. This smooth, spicy red from Tuscany is the ideal transition wine as it can be chilled slightly to serve on summer days or paired alongside braised meats and soups when fall kicks in.

2016 Carpineto “Dogajolo” Rosato, Toscano, Italy $15

A wine that’s the whole package – beautiful to look at and delicious to taste. This rosato made from Sangiovese (the red grape of Tuscany in Italy responsible for the great wines of the region) will carry you from summer to fall with ease. It’s one of the best new pink wines I’ve sampled all year. At this price, you should buy it by the case!

Summer may be winding down and the kids are back to school, but enjoy the still-warm weekends with some incredible wines that will take you from your summer soiree all the way into your fall dinner parties. And check out the latest fun with Hoda and Kathie Lee on the Today Show!






Summertime Sips – Summer Wines Under $25

With the Memorial Day weekend behind us, a busy barbecue season lies ahead. The grill is in perpetual use from June through August and these affordable summer wines show that summertime is THE time for al fresco eating and warm-weather sipping.


 summer-wine-sauvignon-gris2015 Cousiño Macul “Isidora” Sauvignon Gris, Maipo Valley, Chile $13-15

If you drink Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc, seek out a unique wine from Chile called Sauvignon Gris to pair with salty chips and fiery guacamole. Tracing its roots to the Bordeaux area of France, cuttings of the rare vines made their way to Chile where they have found a home. For seven generations Chile’s most historic winery, Cousiño Macul, has been producing world class wines. Their Sauvignon Gris is small in production, but big on flavor. Juicy, succulent fruit flavors along with a crisp, refreshing finish create pinpoint balance. Named for the Cousiño matriarch, Isadora, and displaying her personal crest on the label, it’s a regal yet fun white perfect for summer fare.


summer-wines-rose2015 Saget “La Petite Perrière” Rosé, Vin de France $10-12 

Drink pink when the weather turns warm and you’ll be happy. Dry Rosé is the hottest thing in wine today with growth in the double digits. This cheerful version from the respected Saget family of France’s Loire Valley, is light and lower in alcohol. It’s an ideal wine with spicy fare such shrimp in a tangy, piquant dipping sauce. Made from Pinot Noir grapes mostly grown in the northern Loire Valley with a splash thrown in from warmer climes of Southern France, the well-balanced wine showcases brightness paired with ripe fruitiness.


summer-wines-stemmari-grillo 2014 Stemmari Grillo, Sicily, Italy $6-10

Want to take a vinous vacation this summer? Discover Sicily. The largest island in the Mediterranean is dream destination of coastal beaches towered over by snow-capped Mt. Etna. Wines from white to red and pink to sparkling offer some of the best values on the market. Sicily is the historic home of a fortified wine called Marsala, from the city of the same name on the island’s west Coast. Indigenous variety, Grillo (pronounced Greel-o), is a grape that used to go into Marsala but is now standing on its own and making unique whites that WOW. Showcasing mineral, citrus-fruited aromas with a zesty mouthfeel, Grillo is grilled fish’s best friend. The Stemmari, clocking in at a mere $6, is a best-buy bargain to stock up for a season of summertime parties.


2014 Josh Cellars “Legacy” red blend, California $12-14summer-wines-josh-legacy

This is what I call a twice-the-price wine. The quality is very high and along with stylish packaging, you would easily pay double its price tag. Named in honor of vintner Joseph Carr’s father, Josh, this is a sumptuous combination of Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah. With a dark fruit flavors and a spicy kick, there isn’t a better wine to saddle up next to barbeque ribs and steaks hot off the grill. What’s fun about Legacy, however, is that you can easily make it your Father’s Day gift. Go online to their website and for free you can customize and order a back label with your father’s name on it. They’ll mail it to you to put on a bottle. I’ll raise a glass to that…and to Dads everywhere!


Segura Viudas “Reserva Heredad” Cava, Spain $22-25

Capturing a “Luxe for Less” look is easy with this Spanish Cava. The retro-chic bottle looks like it costs far more than it does and the wine inside tastes the same. Made with native grapes such as Macabeo and Parellada in the traditional method for sparkling wine (aged in the bottle), this bubbly is lush and luxurious. The winery, located in the northeastern Penedès region of Spain, is known for affordable sparkling with this glamorous flagship bottle anchoring the lineup. It’s a MUST-BUY for lovers of high-quality sparkling wine. summer-wines-segura-viuda-cava

Use this list as your go-to to choose your summer wines and entertain all season long, either lounging by the pool, sipping at the beach or hanging at a backyard barbecue.  There’s something here for everyone! 

Check me out with Kathie Lee and Hoda on the Today Show, pairing these amazing wines with the perfect summer food.