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The cure for the summertime blues



It's been 35 days since the solstice, and 45 more stand between us and Labor Day weekend. Enter the summer doldrums, one of the most treacherous stretches of the year.

My primal joy at the return of the sun season has morphed into a pervasive dread at watching the mercury edge toward 100 degrees day after day. Memories of childhood summer vacations turn cruel as I juxtapose those long days of reading Nancy Drew mysteries and eating Fla-Vor-Ice with the crushing routine of adulthood.

The daily grind does not slow, and the heat zaps my enthusiasm for its challenges. My to-do list grows as long as the weeds in my garden but boredom sets in nonetheless. The psychological weight of all this sunlight shorts out my circuits and leaves me with a restless energy that I can easily imagine fueling bad decisions.

This is, of course, the reason for long summer vacations and quick weekend getaways. But ennui cannot be cured by holidays alone. I prefer to retool my wine routine. I've found that a powerful cure for summer blues is to step away from my usual sauvignon blanc and try something new.

Forces pulled me to the Fresh Market in Cameron Village in Raleigh. I've long been a fan of the wine selection of this Greensboro-based chain. It's small, like the other sections of the store, but the bottles are well chosen, offering a good mix of usual suspects, surprises and reliable bargains. I initially lingered at the cooler, gravitating, of course, to the sauvignon blancs. Instead I picked up the Vitiano 2010 Verdicchio Vermentino from Umbria. The label was spare, and I was unfamiliar with verdicchio, an Italian varietal making a comeback. The wine is bright, the color of hay and has a lemony tartness. It has a mouthfeel heftier than the whites I've been drinking. A few sips brought to mind finding a fall sweater at the bottom of a pile of summer laundry, a tangible reminder that this season can't last forever.

Moving from the cooler to the display shelves, I found a Cupcake Moscato. Moscato sales are huge these days, and I've tried a few bottles of it this summer, looking for one that doesn't taste like Gummi Bears. Cupcake is the kind of cutesy wine label that I would like to eschew for its gimmicky marketing, but I can't because I often like the wines. And for a sweet bubbly wine, the Cupcake Moscato d'Asti is quite drinkable. Its nose is like a vase full of fresh-cut gardenias, with a pale, delicate color and big, happy bubbles. The taste is definitely sweet, but it goes down smoothly, like a good ginger ale, without being cloying or syrupy. If you want a sweet bubbly, try it.

My third lucky pick was the NxNW 2010 Horse Heaven Hills Riesling from Washington. I rarely drink American rieslings because I usually find them too sweet. This one was a lovely surprise. The nose was slightly sweet with a mouthfeel as light as rainwater. It had complexity, defined by notes of honey and stone and a mineral finish. It reminded me of cooling off after a sweaty mountain hike with a dive into in a stone-walled pool. I can see myself drinking this again, maybe in a few months when I begin to miss the long days of summer.

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