Los Angeles Times

Cool wines for hot nights

By this time in the summer, you've had just about all the sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio you can stand. It's time to please your palate with a summer vino that will not just cool you down, but earn you cool points with your wine-snob buds. From funky whites to picnic-friendly boxed wine, we've got just the stuff to do it.

Yellowtail is fine for some. Those who want something off-the-beaten path, however, will head to West Town Tavern for for one of its "cult wines." What's cult wine, you ask? "They're wines that a majority of people don't know about," says West Town's Drew Goss. "They're generally small production, but rated highly by an expert." You can snatch up three bold and buzzworthy California reds while they're still available: 2004 Orin Swift's The Prisoner ($56/bottle), 2000 Bargetto La Vita ($64) and 2002 Michael Austin Grape Tamer Syrah ($60). But hurry: Once West Town's supplies are gone, you'll be hardpressed to find these bottles elsewhere.

Fire, flight
The only thing rising faster than global temps is Germany's rep for tasty white wines. Wicker Park's Bin Wine Cafe helps you get schooled on the trend with a German whites flight, featuring a pinot grigio, two Rieslings and a Gewurztraminer ($13.50). "They all really show off in the summertime," says Bin 36 wine director Brian Duncan. If it's not hot enough for you outside, pair the flight with Bin's wood-fired calamari served on an arugula and roasted pepper salad with crispy garlic chips ($9). The custom-built oven here reaches temps more than 900 degrees -- now, that's hot!

Carton of sips
You'll be the hippest kid at the block party when you come in slinging a four-pack of Three Thieves Bandit single-serve--a nice-sized 250 mL--pinot grigio. ($8.99 at Sam's Wine and Spirits.) These palm-sized boxed beauties are easy to lug and easier to chug. Want a slightly more upscale--or maybe just upsized--sipper? The one-liter French Rabbit chardonnay box ($10.99 at Treasure Island.) is the most adorable French export since Oliver Martinez. Even those who sniff at chards will like it's fruit-forward, crisp, non-oaky flavor.

Way to go, rosé
The wide sidewalk seating area at Ravenswood's Spacca Napoli is perfect for sipping something pink under their big, shady table umbrellas. Find a friend to play hooky from work and order a bottle of Cusumano Rosato Sicilia ($6/glass, $27/bottle), a lovely crisp rosé wine. Then order up an appetizer of grilled vegetables ($6) or grilled squid ($7), or share a pizza dripping with fresh mozzarella.

Red alert
Who knew that in between its other concerns the European Union is running a promotion of Beaujolais wines? It's working for you this Saturday when Provenance Food & Wine holds a free tasting of European olive oils and Beaujolais from 3-6 p.m. Come by this upscale Logan Square grocery store to taste the fruity, light reds. They may not be sophisticated, but are probably the only reds you'll want to drink in 90-degree weather. Pick your favorite bottle, some Red Hen breads, a couple of artisanal cheeses then go hit your favorite picnic spot.

Ga-ga for Gruner
Yes, we know it should just be for tourists and business lunches, but who can resist the lure of Park Grill on a sunny day, sipping wine and sharing apps in the shadow of Cloud Gate (ok, the Bean)? Split a quartino (that's a quarter-liter) of the Kurt Angerer Kies Gruner Veltliner ($13), an Austrian white wine catching a buzz among wine folks eager to sample the next trendy varietal. Not sure how to say it? No problem. Cool kids just ask for "GV," "gru-vee," or even just "grooner." If that fails, just point at the menu and grunt.

Allison Knab is a metromix special contributor. This story was updated Aug. 10, 2006

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