What are the best reds? What are the best whites? Sparkling? Dessert? What is the best deal? What should they be paired with? What makes them ideal for spring? What do they taste like?
What are the best reds?
When I think reds and spring in the same sentence, Beaujolais and Pinot Noir immediately come to mind. Also, there are some excellent blended reds that are light and lively, pairing well with lighter dishes than what winter has had us enjoying.
1. 2009 Louis Jadot, Beaujolais Villages, Beaujolais, France. I love when Louis Jadot is in the house. Always a tasting delight, delivering French heritage in every glass. This Beaujolais has lovely raspberries and plum on the nose, with a hint of grey pepper and rose hips. On the palate, this well balanced wine has flavors of dark juicy cherries, and the grey pepper still remains. It has good acidity and soft tannins on the finish. This one is perfect for the breast part of the turkey, or burgers on the grill when the weather allows, and is the best value on the planet. (SRP: $8)
2. 2009 Llai Llai, Bio Bio Valley, Chile. This Pinot comes from 300 miles south of Santiago, and 30 miles west of the Pacific Ocean. Another cool climate grape, with the advantages being that of a slow ripening environment, this is a lovely Pinot Noir… with a very playful name. This Pinot had a distinct character of mint… which would be my one rack of lamb suggestion, yet still enjoyable for salmon or grilled chicken. This Llai Llai leads with juicy black plums, and also delivers a good amount of black pepper. This wine presents the greatest value of all of the Pinots I’ve tasted in a long time. (SRP: $12)
3. Non Vintage Roulé Rouge. Voulez vous Roulé Rouge? This is a light red table wine that’s recently hit the market, and is exclusively selling like hotcakes at Whole Foods. A blend of red grapes, this wine is also organic, from start to finish. A delightful red wine that has flavors of light red fruits, like raspberries and cherries, and is very easy to enjoy… form burgers, to a lively soup dish with tomato as its base, to light marinara dishes, Roulé Rouge hits the spot. (SRP: $9)
What are the best whites?
Whites are an easy spring wine, because the weather is so optimistic and so are white wines. Sauvignon Blank, an Oregon Pinot Gris, and a California Viognier are great examples of white wines that are so refreshing, and take you into some luscious flavors.
1. 2011 Guenoc Lake County Sauvignon Blanc ~ This wine is the best example of an affordably delicious Sauvignon Blanc that’s a crowd pleaser. Made from estate grown grapes, this wine is cool fermented in stainless steel tanks, keeping it refreshingly perfect for a day in the sunshine. A great aperitif on its own, it can also be served with cheese dishes. A Vella Dry Jack from Sonoma, California would be great, because it’s a hard cheese, one that will pair well with the crisp flavors of Sauvignon Blanc. (SRP: $9)
2. 2010 David Hill Estate Pinot Gris ~ An aromatic wine, with lovely accents of grapefruit, pine needle, spice, and mint, it’s elegantly complex, as most Oregon Pinot Gris are. While it’s very refreshing, it also has depth and structure, with a gorgeous, lingering finish. For an Oregon Pinot Gris, this one is very affordable and worth its weight in gold. ($16)
3. 2011 Oak Grove Reserve Viognier ~ Viognier is a Rhone variety that’s a bit different from what we usually think of, when we think of white wine flavors. If you’ve never tried one, you don’t know what you’re missing. It has a lovely perfumed, floral character that’s very unique and welcoming. The Oak Grove Viognier has delicate floral aromas and flavors, and it has a slightly toasted almond finish. It has more aromatics than the Sauvignon Blanc and Oregon Pinot Gris, and yet it’s as refreshing as all of these three wines. Oak Grove wines are all great values. ($8)
Bubbles are a natural for spring, like they are for all seasons. Who doesn’t love sparkling wines?
1. Barefoot Bubbly Rose Cuvee ~ This might seem like it’s going to be Bubbly on training wheels, but don’t let the name fool you. Jennifer Wall, the winemaker, is very serious about her wines, and this is a very affordable option when you’re reaching for a crowd wine. It is slightly sweet, yet it’s very crisp with strawberry and peach flavors on the palate and finish. The sparkling wine is quite enjoyable, and there’s a lot of value in it. Have this one when you’ve got a party going and your guests are innovatingly brave. ($10)
2. 2006 Iron Horse Ocean Reserve ~ When you want to have the very best, Iron Horse is a name that always comes to my mind. This wine is now over five years old, which means that you’ll be experiencing tiny bubbles with this wine, as sat on its yeast for years, making it balanced by an unexpected underlying youthfulness.. This creates really round flavors and textures, and is very refreshing with nutty notes. This is a wine with a cause. According to proprietor Joy Sterling, “The Ocean is the source of food, rain, oxygen and beauty. But today, pollution, overfishing and climate change have placed the ocean in crisis. Here is a sip of hope. Iron Horse Vineyards is partnering with National Geographic to help restore the ocean to health. Continuing our commitment, for every bottle purchased, Iron Horse will donate $4 to establish marine protection areas and reduce overfishing around the world.” ($40)
3. Champagne Perrot-Batteux et filles Blanc de Blancs ~ The colors of this champagne are like a cool spring morning adorned with light fog. More of the white grapefruit type Champagnes, this one held the promise on the nose and on the palate. Dry on the palate, it enlivens the palate, and makes you salivate for pork BBQ ribs. Imported from France, it’s a great find from a very small producer, and very delicious. ($45)
1. Oak Knoll Frambrosia ~ Oregon’s Willamette Valley grows some of the world’s finest red raspberries. While the Oregon wine industry is largely known for its high quality Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, it is by no means limited to those esteemed varietal wines. For the Frambrosia, nearly one pound of fruit is used for each half bottle. Whole red raspberries are frozen then thawed (this breaks down the berry’s cell structure and helps release the juice) then pumped into a membrane press. After gentle pressing, the juice is cool fermented at 60 degrees F. to dryness. This wine defines “deliciousness.” It can be simply sipped after a meal, or it can be drizzled on frozen yogurt… And you can add a few raspberries as a finishing complement. ($12)
2. Trentadue Chocolate Amore ~ Trentadue produces this opulent dessert wine from Merlot grapes grown on their own ranch. Borrowing from the traditions of port making, winemaker Miro Tcholakov adds neutral grape spirits to stop fermentation. This traps a percentage of sugar in the wine. Once Chocolate Amore is finished aging and is ready for bottling, they infuse a tiny amount of natural chocolate extract to the final blend, creating the perfect marriage of food and wine. This Merlot-based, port-styled chocolate flavored dessert wine is great over vanilla ice cream or as a stand-alone dessert. ($20)