joe kolafa | spring wines | april 2019
There can't be many people more eager for spring's arrival than Wisconsinites. After enduring the bitter cold (and shoveling!) for months on end, we're ready to welcome warmer weather with wines that are as lively, bright and jovial as our spirits. These wines can be enjoyed year-round, but are especially fitting as we emerge from hibernation and get together with friends and family. While these selections boast complex flavors, they are uncomplicated and very affordable.
The Meeker Vineyard Verdelho
Contra Costa County, California
Charles and Molly Meeker bought their first vineyard at the end of West Dry Creek Road in Sonoma County's Dry Creek Valley in 1977. In its early years, the winery specialized in Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. 35 years later, their son Lucas now makes the wines and continues to produce some of Sonoma's best from classic varietals as well as some more adventurous ones. Their Verdelho, for instance, is a modern take on something that is actually quite historic. It's the name of a grape varietal grown on the Portuguese island of Madiera for centuries.
In more modern times, producers like the Meekers in California, Australia and even France have taken to using Verdelho to make wines totally unlike the heated, oxidized and fortified Madiera. As a fresh white wine, it is dry, fun and fruity. It boasts very unique tropical fruit aromas and is balanced with great acidity. If you enjoy Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, or Chenin Blanc, you're going to love this. Spring in a bottle!
Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, California
Famous for its flamboyant bouquet of lychees, Gewürztraminer also has floral notes of roses and passion fruit. It's often made in a sweeter style in northern France's Alsace, but this bottling from Optima in sunnier California has been fermented dry. It's rich and crisp with flavors of honeydew melon, creamy peach, ginger, honey and a pinch of nutmeg. A very aromatic wine with nice minerality, it makes the perfect accompaniment to spring salads, cheeses and even difficult to pair Asian cuisine.
Millenio Spumante Rosé
Spumante is an Italian term to refer to a sparkling wine. This one from Millenio comes from Italy's Veneto region and will have you ready to “rosé all day”! Made from an indigenous blend of red and white wines, it's a dry sparkling with a delicate mousse, light body, lovely balance and a fresh, lasting strawberry finish. It's an ideal wine to break in patio furniture or reward yourself with after/while spring cleaning!
Campo de Borja, Spain
Nestled in the foothills of northern Spain's Sierra Moncayo Mountains, Bodegas Aragonesas produces this delicious, organic Garnacha. The extremely dry, hot climate and stark contrast between day and night time temperatures (diurnals) are ideal for making fruity, aromatic wines. Dry, medium-bodied and smooth with plump fruit and hints of spice, this Garnacha has moderate tannin & refreshing acidity. If you're looking for a red that isn't too heavy, it doesn't get much more easy-drinking than this!
These vermouths have been one of my recent favorites to share at tasting events. People are almost universally skeptical at first and blown away when they try them. If you're unfamiliar, vermouth (or 'vermut' in Spain) is made from grapes just like wine. The difference is an infusion of herbs and botanicals- often ones regarded as aphrodisiacs. It's incredibly versatile and couldn't be easier to enjoy. I prefer mine simply over ice with a twist of citrus, but it can make super refreshing spritzers when mixed with soda water or sparkling wine. No need to measure anything out- just combine until you find the right ratio for you!
Turmeon makes an original vermouth that is red in color and perfect for substituting in classic cocktails like Manhattans. My picks for spring though are their blanco and rosé vermouths. Made from Macabeo (a grape also used for sparkling Cava) and Garnacha respectively, they have a slight sweetness with about a dozen botanical flavors naturally imparted (including ginger, vanilla, rose, azahar (flower of love), cinnamon, clove and vanilla). With the same amount of alcohol as a bottle of wine, these can be mixed and easily enjoyed all day at the beach, on a boat, with a date, or as an aperitif. botanicals and herbs naturally help to preserve the vermouth, keeping its flavor fresh for a month after opening. Just remember to store open bottles in the fridge!