Spring Recommendations

The Wine Guys

Now spring is finally here. With the weather warming up and the days getting longer it is often the case that tastes change, moving away from rich, robust reds and creamy whites to lighter, fresher reds and more crisp, floral, and mineral white wines. While sauvignon blanc and unoaked chardonnay are obvious choices for a crisp white wine, there are a number of other varieties worth considering such as albarino from Riaxas Baixas, perhaps a verdejo from Rueda, or even a grenache gris from the Pyrenees. Dark skinned grapes such as pinot noir from Carneros, a nebbiolo from Piedmont, and tempranillo from Rioja can transport you into the summer with aromas of freshly picked cherries, strawberries and raspberries. 

Here are some of my top picks to get spring off to a good start. 

Rias Baixas

Orballo Albarino 2001 ($20) – This charming white comes from the green and relatively cool climate of Rias Baixas in northwest Spain. Made by Bodega La Val, Orballo is one of our best finds from the region. Incredibly refreshing, it has hints of grass, gooseberry, and lemon on the nose. Meanwhile the palate is packed with citrus notes and ripe fruit. This is summer in a glass! 

Rueda

Mania Verdejo Viura 2011 ($15) – From the Denominación de Origen (or DO) of Rueda, an hour and a half drive northeast from Madrid, comes this vibrant and effortless wine. Made by Bodegas Felix Lorenzo Cachazo, a small family-run winery, the Mania is a blend of 50 percent verdejo, 50 percent viura (Macabeo). 

With over 80 percent of the region’s wine made from just from one grape – also a similar situation in Rias Baixas with albarino – it is no wonder verdejo and Rueda are almost used synonymously. The Mania has an attractive and vibrant nose of pear and apple backed up with herb and aniseed notes. Plenty of fresh fruit carries through onto the palate with lots of zip.

Roussillon

Le Cirque Grenache Gris 2011 ($15) – Not an obvious choice, this grenache gris, named after the grey colored grape skin, from Les Maitres Vignerons de Tautavel, is a delight. Grenache is more commonly known and understood to be a dark-skinned grape that contributes in the famous blends of the Rhone Valley. 

Le Cirque comes from the tiny village of Tautavel, a beautiful, unspoiled part of Roussillon that forms the base of the Pyrenees. Vineyards are generally small plots jumbled up by the rugged white limestone hills. Where vines cannot grow spots of green garrigue dot the landscape. It is the higher elevation and Mediterranean climate, with chalky clay soils, that seems to provide the perfect terroir for this humble grape. The Le Cirque is lively, bright, super fresh, unoaked, and delicious. The intense fruit and floral and spicy notes make it a joy on its own, but it also pairs wonderfully with fish and seafood. 

Carneros

Barrique Cellars Pinot Noir 2010 ($25) – This delicious pinot noir hails from Carneros in Sonoma County. One of our most exciting ventures over the last couple of years has been seeking out excess juice from high-end producers. We bottle under our name, Barrique Cellars, and sell the wine for less than half the price the producers’ own bottles go for. The wine is identical, it just has a different label on the bottle. For this reason we can’t name the famous Napa vintner who made this wine, but we can assure you of its quality. Packed with bright fruits including black raspberry, blueberry, and black cherry, this pinot shows typical Carneros elegance. Medium-bodied with a refreshing acidity and soft tannin, while drinking well now, it will continue to improve for several years in the bottle.

Piedmont

Ratti Nebbiolo d'Alba Ochetti 2009 ($22) – While the villages of Barolo and Barbaresco may demonstrate the apex of what nebbiolo is capable of, wines made just outside, in slightly less sought-after areas – particularly Alba – can make for a great spring drink. At half the price of a Barolo, Renato Ratti’s 2009 Ochetti does exactly that. It shows soft, juicy red fruit with a hint of rose petal and other flowers on the nose. On the palate it is round, soft, and has a generous mouth-feel with deep dark fruit flavors and smooth finish.

Rioja

Ladron de Guevara Rioja 2011 ($12) – Tempranillo can vary hugely depending on terroir and the wine-making techniques used. In hotter climates it can make big wines with tons of structure and depth (think Ribera del Duero) rivaling the likes of cabernet sauvignon, yet in cooler climes it tends to produce wines with fresh strawberry and cherry like fruit, which can be easily mistaken for pinot noir. Ladron de Guevara’s 2011 Rioja is a case in point, with fragrant and zesty aromas of blueberry and raspberry that follow gracefully onto the palate with a hint of earthiness in the finish.


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