White after Labor Day No longer a faux pas

Every Labor Day Washingtonians dutifully accept an end to summer. Congress and President Bush are back from vacation. Fall elections loom. The whole city suffers from a less than subtle back to-school melancholy.

I am not ready to pack away my shorts and sunscreen and go quietly in to the good fall night. Perhaps it’s because I’m from Maine – where summer is only a long weekend in August – or because the Farmer’s Almanac is predicting an unusually cold winter. This year I’ve decided to embrace summer as long as it graces us.

I refuse to write the obligatory September column that politely dismisses white wines for their seasonal service before gushing about the fall harvest and myriad red wine and root vegetable pairings. Don’t get me wrong, a bigger admirer of red wine, root vegetables, and the marriage of the two you will not find. But because the earth has reached a certain place in orbit doesn’t mean we should ignore the ambiance of our immediate atmosphere and blindly eat and drink accordingly. The climate, not the calendar, should dictate our lifestyle.

What wines should you drink when it’s still so humid you need gills to breathe? Crisp, refreshing whites. Yes, I said it, whites after Labor Day. This is not as rash as it sounds. According to my wife’s Jenga-like piles of fashion magazines with which I share a home, it is no longer a faux pas to wear white through winter. Even the U.S. Naval District Washington doesn’t change out of their smart summer whites and into their drab winter uniforms until October.

The following wines are made from different grapes grown in different parts of the world. All are good values and can be found on the Hill.

Hogue Pinot Grigio, Columbia Valley 2005 ($9.99), known as Pinot Gris in France because the grapes are grayish in color, is a Washington state wine that offers aromas of cantaloupe and honey. The flavor is a nice balance between dry and sweet. Try this in place of Chardonnay.

Babich Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2004 ($12.99): Although this area in the south of New Zealand’s islands didn’t start growing wine grapes until 1973, the region produces the most exciting Sauvignon Blancs in the industry. Enjoy this wine’s lingering herbal, lime, and mineral notes.

Another recommendation is Alice White Lexia, south eastern Australia 2004 ($7.99). For those who have a hard time identifying the nose or aroma of a wine – this is for you. Expressions of papaya, apricot and lilacs are instantly recognizable. Made from Muscat, perhaps the oldest domesticated grape variety, it’s sweet and thicker than what most people expect from a white. Try a chilled bottle the next time you have Thai food delivered.

So join me and raise a glass of white to the lingering summer. You’ll be glad you did.