J.P. Knaggs of the Bijou Cafe was the first to introduce South African wines to Sarasota menus. Years later, he still loves and promotes them. “I’m enjoying Babylonstoren rose, a small-production wine that I have at the restaurant by the glass and bottle,” he says. “It’s not easy to find in stores but is about $19 when you can.” A perfect hot-weather wine for Florida, it’s ideal with fish, salads or shrimp on the grill, Knaggs says. It works as an aperitif, too. Serve cold. “For something more elegant to serve at a poolside dinner party, my favorite summer choice is Hamilton Russell chardonnay from Walker Bay north of Cape Town,” he says. “This is a substantial dry wine with layers of flavors, some on the flinty side. Nice with grilled chicken, scallops in a cream sauce or veal. In the $35-$40 range in wine stores.”
Sean Murphy, proprietor of the Beach Bistro, grew up in Nova Scotia, and his thoughts about summer wines turn to Canada’s dry Rieslings and rosés. Two of his favorites are on the restaurant wine list and available for about $12 a glass. “A dry rosé, Champs de Provence, makes a perfect summer wine both in color and flavor,” he says. “You can taste hints of citrus and cherry with a sharp, crisp finish.” Murphy is also pouring and recommending a noble but inexpensive Riesling, Kabinett, by August Kessler. “The Riesling is bigger and fruitier than the rosé, but its smooth, dry finish makes it a wonderful wine with all summer foods,” he says. “Both these wines look great in the glass with a sunset background.”
Michael Klauber, co-owner of Michael’s On East, is a world-traveling connoisseur who collects wines and recipes that make it back to his wine store, restaurant cellar and kitchen. “I’m enjoying the LOLA pinot noir from North Point, California,” he says. “It has a glamorous garnet color and aromas of cola, blackberries, cherries and vanilla.” Klauber says the wine goes well with grilled meats. The winemaker and owner of LOLA is Seth Cripe, who began his career as a bus boy in a restaurant on his native Anna Maria Island. “He’s a local boy who is making it big in the wine world,” says Klauber.
A bottle retails for about $48; it’s $20 by the glass in his restaurant. Another favorite is the 2014 viognier, Babylonstoren, which has the taste of fresh pear and peaches along with dried apricot. “This is a round, creamy wine you can sip on its own on a summer evening or with the light foods of the season. It’s $55 for a bottle and $20 a glass in the restaurant,” he says.