Tasty Picnic Libations

Beyond bottled water, or beer, or soda

Summer, and the sippin' is easy. Once you've packed your picnic, it's time to think of what to drink. Here are some suggestions to match your mood and food.

Tasty yet affordable local vintages: Picnics aren't wine tastings, especially if the selected site doesn't allow alcohol and one is confronted with the dilemma of skipping or sneaking it. But Michael Millett, a buyer for Rainbow Grocery, has some great recommendations for outdoor quaffs to complete that perfect outdoor meal.

Those looking for a full-bodied wine with a hint of the tropics might select the Reynoso Sauvignon Blanc 2003 ($7.99). Millett calls it “the best white wine value in the store right now.”

He also likes the green apple and pineapple aromas of Bonterra Chardonnay 2004 ($12.49). “It has flavors of bold citrus and tropical fruit that's balanced with a creaminess that lingers on the finish,” he adds.

Those craving a cabernet instead might choose the Cycles Gladiator Central Coast Cabernet 2004 ($9.99), with its aromas of raspberry, mint, mocha, and dark fruit flavor. Millett suggests pairing it with hearty dishes, such as tomato-based pasta and meat, but it could hold its own at a cookout, too.

And if a little bit of a splurge is in order, Millett says it's worth it to hunt down the Robert Sinsky Vin Gris Rose 2005 ($17.99), which he describes as “crisp and fresh, with aromas of white flowers and nectarine and a bit of orange blossom on the finish.”

Nontraditional yet boozy for the adventure club: Choya Plum Wine with Ume Fruit.

This is a delightful pairing with our suggested picnic menu on the following page, with or without the plum wine jelly dessert. The best part is indulging in the alcohol-soaked plums at the bottom of the bottle, the refined Japanese answer to the worm in the tequila. Or at least the fruit slices that hang out in sangria pitchers.

Shameless yet economical for the unfussy: Almaden Chardonnay Box.

We won't even try to pretend that boxed wines are for everyone. Certainly, they're like nails on a chalkboard to many hard-core wine enthusiasts. But if your picnic group is both light on connoisseurs and heavy on nonjudgmental revelers, it's awfully hard to beat five liters of a super portable tipple for just over 10 bucks.

Refreshing yet mildly caffeinated for designated drivers: Iced green tea.

Boil up a pot of green tea and pour it hot into a portable container with ice and copious amounts of honey. Not only is it a lovely palate cleanser, it also keeps the mental windshield wipers on in case any heavy machinery needs to be operated after the meal.

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