If that first burst of springtime energy hasn’t already been used up in, say, organizing your sweaters or cleaning your windows, consider applying it to freshening up your wine drinking. Wines are as seasonal as food: winter’s stews and braised meats cry out for the warming, spicy tones of Syrah while summertime’s barbecued chicken, corn-on-the-cob and chilled watermelon slices pair beautifully with ice-cold Provençal rosés. If April has already got you looking at cute wedge sandals and sundresses, you might update your wine wardrobe as much as your apparel. For springtime sipping, you want to focus on refreshing white wines with higher levels of acidity and on “transitional” wines like rosés and lighter-weight reds.
Springtime inspires foods and holidays that reflect this transitional season. Easter is a time of renewal, Passover commemorates perseverance and Mother’s Day celebrates life and family. From the honeyed apples of traditional haroset to fork-tender brisket, a Passover seder usually features great food. But those kosher wines have long been the dread of many a wine-lovin’ observant. Four cups per person of syrupy-sweet Manischewitz, the typical ceremonial quantity, is a lot to choke down even if you like stickier styles of wine. While the rules regarding kosher wine production are strict, you can find excellent examples made from fine-wine grapes rather than the Concord, jelly-jam varieties.
Easter menus vary as widely as the Christian faiths that celebrate the holiday. My parents were raised Mormon, so my Mom’s amazing honey-glazed ham, cheese potatoes, cranberry salad and cinnamon carrots forlornly lacked good Pinot Noir until I got old enough to do something about it. Though still not much of a drinker, my sweet mother has belatedly discovered dry Riesling and rosé bubbles, both great matches as well for her signature feast. When considering wine for Easter, focus on the central protein. Doing eggs and brunch? Consider Prosecco. Lamb with all the fixings? Move toward Sangiovese, the grape found in Chianti.
And lest we forget the most non-denominational of spring holidays, consider gifting Mom with some vino instead of bad perfume this year. Why is it so many folks will pony up the pesos for booze for dads and grads in June but Mom gets stuck with bad Hallmark cards or worse in May? A lovely springtime bottle of one of the bubblies below is an inspired choice that will mark you as the favorite child for sure … are you listening, three brothers of mine? Below are a few of my favorites to consider for your holiday table this spring. (Wines marked with asterisks are Kosher.)
*2010 Bartenura Moscato d’Asti (Piemonte, Italy)
Just slightly sweet, this crowd-pleasing bubbly from Asti is a homerun for your Passover feast.
2006 Handley Vineyards Aners Brut Rosé (Anderson Valley, CA)
Predominantly Pinot Noir, this bubbly from the Anderson Valley is substantial enough to drink throughout your Easter feast – not just for toasting!
RECOMMENDED WHITES and ROSÉS:
2010 Uvaggio Vermentino (Lodi, CA)
Utterly delicious! The Vermentino grape, here grown in California, is the perfect balance of lemon curd and white flower aromas. This is one of my favorite spring wines.
*2010 Kinneret Chardonnay (Ella Valley, Israel)
This kosher Chardonnay from one of Israel’s finest growing regions is worth seeking out; ripe round apple notes and great acidity.
Nothing says “springtime” like opening a bottle of this totally dry and totally refreshing wine. They’ve been making wine there since the Crusades – talk about old vines.
* 2007 Borgo Reale Toscana Rosso (Tuscany, Italy)
This is one of the only “Super Tuscan” kosher wines I know of, and it’s a great blend of the traditional Sangiovese and nonnative Bordeaux grapes. Ideal for brisket, lamb and pork.
Rich and nuanced Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley, with lush dark berry fruit profile and sandalwood notes.
2009 Michaud Sangiovese (Chalone, CA)
My favorite non-Italian Sangiovese out there. Grown near Pinnacles National Monument by one of the nicest guys in the business, Michael Michaud’s wines are a revelation.