With spring well upon us, it's time to dust off those white wines and fruity reds.
Winter's wine focus for most consumers is on big red wines like cabernet sauvignon that go well with heavier foods like stews and steaks. But when our food interests shift to lighter fare - grilled fish, hamburgers and ribs - our wine interests shift too.
We still drink our fair share of cabernets in the summer, but we definitely drink more white wines at this time of the year. In recent weeks, we've been enjoying rosas and sauvignon blancs. We've rediscovered new white wines, like garganga and vernaccia from Italy.
So what constitutes the ideal spring wine? Good acidity.
Acidity gives a prickling sensation on the sides of the tongue and perks up the palate on a stifling hot day. Moreso, it serves as the perfect complement to a variety of foods that use spring vegetables and fruit.
In recent weeks we found two vernaccias from San Gimignano, a delightful walled town we visited in the Siena province of Tuscany. The Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG 2010 ($18) is medium bodied and surprisingly complex with citrus and tangerine notes and a creamy texture. The 2009 Teruzzi & Puthod Rondolino Vernaccia di San Gimignano ($14) has more bright acidity with great aromatics and notes of peach and pear.
Sauvignon blanc is a good call for spring too. Consumers have many styles from which to choose: the dominant grassy flavors of sauvignon blanc from New Zealand and the more moderate flavors of California sauvignon blanc.
There are so many alternatives to chardonnay that deserve trying. Here are a few:
Dry Creek Vineyard Estate Sauvignon Blanc DCV3 ($25). This producer makes some of the most consistently well-made sauvignon blancs in the Dry Creek Valley. It's a specialty of winemaker David Stare, who likes to model the DCV3 after the Loire sauvignon blancs he loves. This was the first vineyard in the valley planted to sauvignon blanc. Lots of classic pineapple notes with a touch of ginger and mineral.
Chateau Ste Michelle Pinot Gris 2010 ($13). Juicy, fresh pear and spice flavors.
Trumpeter Torrontes 2010 ($12). We like this Argentine grape variety for its bright acidity and unique flavors. It offers ripe peach aromas and flavors of orange, lemon and mineral.
Cline North Coast Viognier 2011 ($12). This is a steal at this price. A Rhone grape variety, viognier's power is in its aromas and the Cline doesn't disappoint. But the flavors - peach, pineapple, citrus - don't disappoint either. It's a great sipping wine but will do well with cheese or shrimp.
Cline Marsanne Roussanne 2011 ($16). A blend of two popular grapes in France's Rhone Valley, this Cline white has unique flavors that range from pineapple to honey. It may not appeal to every palate, but if you are looking for a different flavor profile, try it.
Sigalas Santorini Assyrtiko 2010 ($22). This has been one of the biggest surprises in our wine tasting adventures this year. Made on the Greek island of Santorini, it ranked among Wine Spectator magazine's top 100 wines in 2011. It has great aromatics with intense apple and pear flavors, good mineral and big acidity. It pairs nicely with seafood, including oysters, and serves as a refreshing aperitif.
Marchesi Antinori Tenuta Guado al Tasso Vermentino 2010 ($25). If you are looking for something different this summer, this Italian vermentino from Bolgheri is very appealing. Simple, but delicious with peach aromas, lemon-lime favors and mineral notes.
Herdade do Esporao Verdelho 2011 ($12). From Portugal, this white wine is simple but very refreshing. Citrus, mango and apple flavors.
Cline Mourvedre Contra Costa Rosa 2011 ($12). The mourvedre grapes offer a unique personality to rose. It has a touch of pomegranate to add to the cherry notes. Long finish, rich color.
Mas Guiot Rosa 2011 ($12). A bit of syrah and mourvedre is added to this predominantly grenache rose. One of our favorites year after year, the Mas Guiot has a nice balance of fruit and finesse.
Grande Cassagne Rosa 2011 ($12). This is a blend of grenache (60 percent), syrah and mourvedre. Electric pink color with perfumy aromas and rich cherry, watermelon flavors. The abundance of fruit makes you think the wine is sweet, but it is dry.
L'Ardi Dolcetto D'Acqui 2010 ($12). This is a terrific light bodied red wine that is sure to please the palate and pocketbook. Enticing berry, cherry fruit nose and is presented in a very soft manner in the mouth. This fun wine from the Piedmont region of Italy is made to drink tonight with casual food.
Austin Hope Grenache 2010 ($32). We loved the intense blackberry and cherry flavors of this rich grenache from Paso Robles. Tantalizing hints of black pepper and spice. Floral aroma.
Las Rocas Old Vine Garnacha 2009 ($20). Those of you looking for a steal must try this producer's Red Blend ($14), composed of garnacha (grenache), tempranillo and syrah. As good as it is, we like the garnacha made from grapes grown on 80-year-old vines. Intense aromas and dark cherry flavors with good dose of oak
Carlos Pulenta Tomero Malbec 2010 ($15). You can't go wrong for the price with malbec. This Argentine favorite sports ripe blackberry fruit with a hint of vanilla and oak.