You keep that red-and-white checkered blanket in the boot of your roadster for days such as this. It's loaf-plus-jug-plus-thou time, and you want to be ready for a picnic whenever the mood, or the sun, strikes you. But not to take that "jug of wine" line literally you want a 750 ml bottle of something light and refreshing to share with the thou of your life.

This is the scenario in which you want to invoke the ABC Rule anything but chardonnay. Too heavy. Too ponderous. Too nap-inducing. You want something livelier. Casualer. Refreshinger. (And, it must be said, cheaper.) You want a quaffer something you don't really have to think about to enjoy. And something less alcoholic than your dinner pour.

What you want in your wicker basket is something along the lines of a pinot grigio (like Estancia's), a sauvignon blanc (St. Supery, Geyser Peak, even Ferrari Carano), a gewürtz (Navarro actually any Alsatian-style wine from Navarro) or a rosé (Meeker's Pink Elephant).

But if you and your sweetie are feeling a tad effervescent this summery day, you can do no wrong by popping (actually, easing) open a sparkler. Prosecco seems to hold sway this season, especially bottlings by Zardetto and Zenato.


But is there no better way to celebrate a lazy lunch than by swinging by a winery and "general store" (more kinds of artisinal cheese, local thinsliced meat and big poofy breads than you can shake a stick at) and heading somewhere green and leafy to take the foil and cage off a California sparkling wine? Gloria Ferrer's Brut, Domaine Chandon's Blanc de Noir and, if you are heading south, down Temecula way, Thornton's pricier Brut Reserve are excellent companions with which to share a casual meal al fresco. (Just don't call it 'Frisco.)

Still in a mood for red?

St. Innocent Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir 2006, $42. Serious pinots also can accommodate spring's sometimes transitional weather and, if you've a mind to, grilled salmon. St. Innocent, from the Yam Hill foothills of the Willamette Valley, opens slowly to reveal an intensity of dark, gorgeously integrated fruit. Grade: A-

Soter Beacon Hill Pinot Noir 2006, $54 From the Yamhill-Carlton District of Oregon, a more reticent Burgundian with a hint of spice. Grade: B+

Black Cap Pinot Noir 2006,
$46 Another seriously distinguished pour, with hints of black cherry and tea. Sensuous. Grade: A-