Six wines to try this spring

Six wines to try this spring

By: Linda Kissam
Photos by Allan Kissam

The last few days seem to have a hint of spring in them.  Of course, many people will tell you it’s always spring in Southern California.  Nonetheless, as a SoCal native, I can tell the advent of springtime…and now is it. Warm sunny temps in the 70’s, longer daylight and “first leaves” on my rose bushes herald that spring is open for discussion.

Now is the time to drink up any lighter wines from last year that may have slipped your notice and make a shopping list for the weeks ahead. I have some suggestions (with pairings) for you from a tasting event I attend last weekend.

The idea of changing the wine you drink with the season, just as you change your diet and your wardrobe is a thing of beauty. Actually I consider myself a “seasonal” wine drinker.  Even though I “like what I like,” when it comes to wine, drinking the same varietals right through the year tends to become boring – or worse- dysfunctional for tastes of the seasons.

The more pronounced acidity and palate weight of lighter wines for spring is what you need to consider. Spring choices can be tricky because springtime weather can be so unpredictable. One moment you need the heat on with a Cab in hand, the next you are on you’re on your patio sipping a Sav Blanc.

Trying wines with the right kind of food – like Melissa’s Roasted and Toasted Pappa al Pomodoro (recipe below) and you’ll see how perfectly tuned the wines below are to the flavors of spring.

Wines, Pairings & a Recipe

  1. Brut Impèrial Rosè paired with fried chicken bites and shortbread cookies filled with raspberry jam. A blend of three wine varieties, with an emphasis on Pinot Noir, this wine showcases a fruity character promising the delights of spring and summer. Color includes shades of copper or salmon. Good intensity. On the palate lively, expressive, aromas dominated by the scent of wild strawberries and cranberry. It is full-bodied with assertive fruitiness. $59.99 All packaged up in one of the most beautiful boxes ever –all pink and lively- this makes a great gift and would, in my opinion, be the perfect match for a Breast Cancer event toast.
  2. 2015 Chateau Ste. Michelle Horse Heaven Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Horse Heaven Hills, $18: Appetizer pairing: Herbs de Provence Crackers (gluten free) and Chèvre. Tastes like patio time to me! This Sauvignon Blanc is a crisp, spicy  style of Sauvignon Blanc with citrus characteristics (like lemon and pineapple) using partial stainless steel fermentation to preserve the Sauvignon Blanc’s pure, fresh, vibrant character.
  3. 2013 Carménere, Tertulia Cellars in Walla Walla, Washington/ $40: Pair bacon, lettuce & tomato sandwich bites.  Packed full of robust aromas of cracked black pepper, tobacco, and ground coffee. The complex aromatics are hints of blueberry and black licorice. With such a big nose, the wine has surprisingly sweet soft tannins. Drink now or wait until 2024. This was the surprise wine of the evening, winning 1st place amongst the tasters. Nothing like it is currently on the market.
  4. Tasca d’Almerita Winery’s Lamuri 2013: $20. This is a Nero d’Avola from Sicily, Italy.  Intense ruby-red in color, offering fresh aromas of black cherry, black fruits, vanilla, tobacco, and wild herbs. On the palate, velvety tannins and refreshing acidity make for an elegant, expressive wine. Pair this wine with spaghetti and meatballs, Bolognese sauces, Pappa Pomodoro (RECIPE BELOW) , and lamb kebabs or most anything that has earthy mushrooms in it.
  1. Big Red 11 from Lake Elsinore winery, La Rebelde: $18.  Attention Vegans! It is a lighter, unfiltered blend of Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah/Merlot blend from a unique vegan winery. A taste of plums and cherry ends with a spicy earthiness.  Pair it with an eggplant and sweet pepper tapenade. Some of you will need to study up on why unfiltered wines tastes and look the way they do.  It can be a surprise to the eye and palate.
  2. 2013 Syrah, Walla Walla, WA/ $35: A bold – but not too bold– wine with aromatics of black licorice, black berry minerals, vanilla and bay leaf. Let the wine open a bit before serving. As the wine opens, the subtle influence of the Grenache adds a subtle layer of figs and raspberry. On the palate a dedicated vein of acidity combines with the rich mid-palate for a smooth finish. Pair with an antipasti tray.
  3. A. Harrison Family Cellars 2013 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley /$45: It can be hard to find a soft intelligent dessert wine. This one hits all the “good” points for springtime.  Not to sugary, not too fruity. The word “springtime soft” comes to mind. Notes of creme brulee, honey, apricots, peaches, and vanilla are present on the nose and palate. Puff pastry bites topped with blue cheese, goat cheese and a drop of honey on top will send you to a springtime nirvana of your own.

Roasted and Toasted Pappa al Pomodoro
Recipe by: Chef Tom Fraker
Compliments of Melissa’s World Variety Produce


½ pound Sourdough Loaf Bread, cut into cubes

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, as needed

Melissa’s My Grinder Organic Italian Seasoning, to taste

1 (10oz.) package Mini San Marzano Tomatoes

4 cloves Melissa’s Peeled Garlic

2 tablespoons Unsalted Butter

½ Melissa’s Perfect Sweet Onion, diced small

2 (14.5oz.) cans Diced Tomatoes

1 (10oz.) can Diced Tomatoes and Chiles, such as Rotel

1 cup Fresh Basil, cut into ribbons

1/3 cup Sherry

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Toss the bread with some olive oil and Italian Seasoning and spread them, in a single layer, on a baking sheet. Toss the San Marzano Tomatoes and the whole garlic cloves with some olive oil and Italian Seasoning and spread them, in a single layer, on another baking sheet. Place them in the preheated oven and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the bread is toasted and golden brown and the tomatoes are blistered and slightly charred.

In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and melt the butter. Add the onions and caramelize them. Add the 2 cans of tomatoes, and the one can of diced tomatoes and chiles, the roasted tomatoes and the garlic. Add 4 cups of hot water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the bread, basil and sherry and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Carefully blend the soup in a blender, being sure to leave some of its chunky texture. Fill soup bowls with the mixture and garnish them with shaved parmesan and fresh basil. Serve hot. Makes 4-6 servings.

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