Ah, spring. We bid a less than fond farewell to the soggy, drizzly mess that was winter 2018-19. We sniff the air for the freshness that this fine, soft season brings.
And we turn our thoughts to the lighter wines I call Spring Sippers.
As the weather turns warmer we tend toward lighter dining and wining. Crisp, dry roses and less brawny whites call our names. So as we edge closer to summer, let’s take a look at some Spring Sippers I have encountered in recent months.
Wine of the month
Mi Sueno Los Carneros Chardonnay 2016
The wine: Lush, fruity but dry white table wine.
The grapes: 100 percent Chardonnay.
The source: Napa Valley portion of Carneros region, California.
The verdict: Winemaker-owner Rolando Herrera named this wine Mi Sueno, or “my dream.” I dream of having a pipeline to the winery so I could just tap into the supply of this beauty. I try not to write about wines you probably won’t see outside a major metropolitan area (we do have one nearby, in case you missed it.) But this classic iteration of chardonnay deserves accolades, even if you have to put nose to ground and sniff it out. Carneros, an area shared by Napa and Sonoma Counties, is prime growing area for chardonnay and pinot noir. And Mi Sueno does nothing to lower the quality bar. The extra TLC glimmers in this green-gold dream. You get 30 percent aging in new French oak, malolactic fermentation to soften the acids, 18 months of bottle aging. Sadly only 295 cases were bottled. But if you can find this dreamy white, grab some — and prepare for a lesson on what makes chardonnay great. Mi Sueno is as good as or better than many chardonnays at twice the price.
The price: About $48.
Let’s also review some guidelines for serving and consuming such wines. First, they generally are paired with lighter fare: fruits and cheeses, simple chicken or even pork dishes, salads not drenched with vinegar. Second, make sure they are well chilled — 4-6 hours in the fridge — but not igloo cold. Over-chilling wines makes some of the flavors and aromas less discernible. A good temperature range is 45-50 degrees.
Vietti Roero Arneis DOCG 2017
Our first Sipper comes from the highly regarded Vietti winery of Italy and is produced from a grape that’s not heard of often in this country — arneis. Vietti has delivered stellar wines for decades. I had dinner with members of the family several years ago, when their labels sported spectacular drawings of insects. The folks were great and so were the wines.
DOCG is the highest quality designation given to Italian wines, and this one deserves it. It comes from the Roero region of Italy’s Piedmont. It is crisp and dry with complex flavors of mineral and citrus. No oak distraction since the wine is fermented and aged in stainless steel. It’s a great picnic wine. About $25.
Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Gewurztraminer 2016
Winos have a shorthand name for this wine: Gewurz. That’s the name of the grape from which this Washington state wine is made. Not many U.S. wineries make decent Gewurz, and this is much more than decent. “Gewurz,” by the way, is a German prefix meaning “spicy.”
The Ste. Michelle brings the unique aromas and flavors of this grape to the glass; clove spice, orange citrus, and a satisfying, fruity taste, sensation and finish. As nice a wine as this one is, it’s easy to find on supermarket and wine shop shelves — and the price is sensible. About $12.
J Vineyards & Winery Pinot Gris 2016
There is a lot of mediocre pinot gris out there. This ain’t one of them. From one of Sonoma County’s finest wineries this wine lets you know pinot gris can be bloody good. The grapes were hand-harvested at night and stored in small bins. Fruit from different vineyards were handled separately. Result? A medium-bodied white that cries out for food. A pairing suggestion from the winery — pineapple brown butter sauce over scallops
You will pick up citrus notes, lemongrass and a hint of apples and pears. This is a wine you can simply sip by itself on a warm day and feel good about life in general. About $22.
LaRue Cotes de Provence Rose 2017
Made from an unspecified blend of grapes, this lithe, pink lovely comes from the largest growing area in Provence, where 90 percent of wine produced is rose. There’s not much nose to this subdued wine, but the dry fruitiness in the mouth is a delight. Here’s another great wine for the picnic basket.
One of the pairing recommendations suggested cold salmon, and I can see that. I also can imagine this with grilled salmon. Another idea was a duck reuben, which I don’t think I’ll find locally. This wine can be found only at Aldi. And it falls in line with Aldi’s reputation for offering very good wines at very low prices. About $8.
Scharffenberger Cellars Brut Rose Excellence
Scharffenberger was founded decades ago by John Scharffenberger in northern California’s Mendocino County. John has since moved on, but his tradition of making high-quality sparkling wines in the traditional Champagne method lives on in the hands of winemaker Jeffrey Jindra, who argues that bubbly is not just for special occasions. “Big occasions are great,” Jindra says, “but so is the everyday.”
I agree. Celebrate that the sun came up in the east — and you were around to experience that. This rose sparkler is just the wine for the job. It’s 56 percent pinot noir and 44 percent chardonnay, all grown in the spectacular Anderson Valley. As a rose, this wine brings more structure and body than a bubbly made solely from chardonnay. And the sparkle fills the mouth with a joyful tingle. About $24.
Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident. Have a question about wine? He can be contacted at email@example.com. His column appears on the first Wednesday of the month and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.