Spring has sprung, the grapevines are getting greener by the day, and it's about time to pop some corks! The bounty of beautiful vegetables at the farmer's market has forced me to fire up the grill and lounge in the sunshine with a glass of something light, with refreshing acidity and great balance.
White wines and rosés are always popular this time of year, but young, lighter red wines (like Chinon, Zweigelt, Gamay, or Pinot Noir) would be perfect, too! When choosing reds, try to find young wines with higher acidity and little to no oak. Also, remember to serve light red wines slightly chilled for some added refreshment!
Here are some of my favorite wines to welcome the season, along with food pairing ideas:
1. Hermann J. Wiemer Cuvée Brut 2011, Finger Lakes
This New York sparkling wine is refreshing and citrusy - perfect for a toast or celebration on its own, or paired with aged cheeses and meats. Nothing better for a summer day in the Hamptons! Wiemer also has exceptional Riesling - some of the best in the United States!
2. Domaine Carneros Estate Brut Cuvée 2010, Napa Valley
Some people always have a bottle of Veuve Clicquot in their refrigerator, awaiting the proper ocassion - I always have Domaine Carneros. One of my favorite California sparkling wines, it's a versatile sparkler that is perfect to bring out each and every weekend! Pairs beautifully with briney oysters, ceviche, and even rich, creamy French cheeses.
3. Chappellet Chenin Blanc 2012, Napa Valley
I'm not always a fan of Chenin Blanc, but Molly Chappellet's signature wine offers refreshing, lively notes of citrus and tropical fruit. Its richness and moderate acidity pair beautifully with white fish, chicken, and fresh cheeses...the perfect wine to enjoy while taking in a California sunset.
4. Domäne Wachau Grüner Veltliner, Wachau
Grüner Veltliner, the star of Austria, has grown in popularity over the past few years. When you can't make a choice, choose Grüner Veltliner! It is versatile, bright, and pairs with a number of light foods like spring soups and light vegetable dishes.
5. Tablas Creek Vineyard Viognier 2013, Paso Robles
Viognier, one of the Rhône Valley's best known grapes, thrives in Tablas Creek's certified organic estate vineyard. Wonderful with or without food, this Viognier has a rich mouthfeel and is bright and clean on the palate. Pair with grilled white fish, shellfish, and salads with bright citrus dressings.
6. Domaine Franck Millet Sancerre 2012, Loire Valley
This Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley is beautifully aromatic - fresh, with bright acidity and gentle minerality. The famous limestone soil is evident in the glass. Pair with white fish and use a splash to make an accompanying sauce!
7. Scarpetta Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Friuli-Venezia Giulia
This Sauvignon Blanc comes from a certified organic vineyard in Colli di Orientali, located in Northern Italy. This area is known for its crisp white wines and this bottle is no different. It is medium-bodied with a punch of citrus and stone fruit - perfect with light hors d'oeuvres and grilled fish.
8. Lorenza Rosé 2014, California
Nothing says summer like a group of girls toting a bottle (or five) of rosé to the beach - from city to city and country to country, the tradition lives on. Lorenza's rosé is a pretty perfect dry Provençal rosé - made right here in California. It's a great summer sipper.
9. Bow & Arrow Gamay Noir 2012, Willamette Valley
Gamay may be known as the grape that makes up Beaujolais Nouveau, but trust me, Gamay is so much more than that! These light red wines from Burgundy and the Loire Valley also thrive in Oregon's Willamette Valley. Earthiness and soft red fruits lead to a bright, balanced finish. Pair with grilled salmon.
10. Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir 2013, Santa Barbara County
One of my favorite local wines, this Pinot Noir is easy-drinking, light, and fruity with a hint of spice on the palate. I drink it all year round as a go-to light red with vegetarian pasta dishes, but it also pairs exceptionally well with grilled salmon.
11. Penner-Ash Pinot Noir 2012, Willamette Valley
Oregon's Willamette Valley is one of the best expressions of Pinot Noir in the country and Penner-Ash has some exceptional options. One of the more expensive wines on the list, this Pinot Noir is rich with red berries and cherries on the palate. It also carries a longer finish than the one above. Pair with grilled salmon and lighter meat dishes, like chicken and pork.
12. Bernard Baudry "Les Granges" Chinon 2013, Loire Valley
Chinon is usually going to mean Cabernet Franc and Domaine Bernard Baudry is one of the best producers in the Loire Valley. There are some great examples of Cabernet Franc in California (try Chappellet's Cabernet Franc from the Napa Valley), but Chinon is famous for its bright acidity and that's what this classic example showcases. It is fruity and slightly smokey, perfect with a hefty cheese and charcuterie board.