Every season inspires a different and unique wine style to explore. For some reason, maybe it’s the seasonal nature of our shore towns waking up after a long cold winter, spring brings an enthusiasm — and flavor — that are palpable: lighter body, brighter fruit, higher acid, softer tannins, less oak, more stainless steel, more rosé … the list goes on.
If you’re wondering what all this means, don’t worry, I have compiled a short list of specific wines, as well as additional varietals to seek out. As always, the wines are produced by farmers and winemakers who deploy the most natural methods to handcraft wines at the highest level of quality.
2014 George’s Cuvee by Arietta: This is an alluring and seductive white Bordeaux blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon. Produced by famed winemaker Andy Erickson of Screaming Eagle, Harlan Estate and Staglin, it represents the one and only white wine by Arietta. The sauvignon blanc brings a racy structure of mouthwatering citrus, while the semillon adds body weight, floral aromatics and length to the finish. Only found at Steve & Cookies in Margate for $13 a glass.
2014 Failla Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast, California: Pronounced fay-la, this wine is produced by winemaker Ehren Jordan and owner Anne-Marie Failla. It serves as a consistent and clear benchmark for Sonoma’s elegant, cool climate wines. The result is a 100 percent pinot noir that is all about finesse and fruit. Think sweet spice, rose petal, mint and succulent cherry plum notes. Pairings would include pecan crusted salmon, duck, roasted chicken and vegetables. Treat yourself, you won’t be disappointed. Priced at $14 a glass, $51 per bottle at the Knife & Fork Inn in Atlantic City.
2011 Tuck Beckstoffer Melée Grenache California: Some people, no matter what the season, will continue to drink a “full-bodied red wine.” Grenache noir is a red grape variety that thrives in California, as well as Washington, France, Italy and Australia. I was introduced to Melée on a recent visit to Napa Valley and was super impressed. Grenache has all the qualities of a spring red wine: fresh acidity, soft tannin, baked candied fruits, lavender, white pepper, higher alcohol. And in the case of Melée — a touch of aged meats on the mid palate, which makes it slightly fuller than most. The wine is a beautiful illustration of how both power and finesse can exist in the same glass. Perfect for grilled meats and roasted vegetables. Found at Passion Vines for $34 a bottle.
I’m not sure rosé wine needs an introduction these days. For the past three years the category has been one of the fastest growing — and for very good reasons. The wines are clean, versatile, fruity, fun and flirty — what’s not to like? Here are two:
2016 Chateau Puech Haut Prestige Rosé: Arguably one of the Top 5 rosés in the South of France is the 2016 Puech-Haut Cuvee Prestige Rose. With a blend of 60 percent grenache and 40 percent cinsault, it boasts a fresh, white-fruit pallet — think white peach and melon with fresh minerality and acidity. The vines range from 30 to 40 years old and are grown in clay-limestone soil, which gives this wine a clean and refreshing taste. It is the perfect rosé to enjoy by the glass with friends. Try pairing it with shrimp ceviche or tuna tartar. Priced at $19.99 per bottle at Joe Canal’s in Egg Harbor Township.
2015 San Salvatore Vetere Rosato: Hailing from Campania, Italy, Vetere is the name of the small town located near their vineyards. This is a rosé wine comprised of 100 percent aglianico. After a very gentle press, the wine is placed into stainless steel tanks. The result is a light cherry pink color with notes of currant and maraschino cherry. Treat yourself and pair this wine with fresh burrata made from mozzarella and cream. This is being poured at The Iron Room in Atlantic City for $11 per glass and $30 per bottle.
Also, ask your local shop if they have the following spring varietals: Gruner Veltliner, Chenin Blanc, Verdejo, dry Riesling, Albarino and light reds from the Loire Valley … and let me know what you think.
Michael Bray is founder of Passion Vines Wine & Spirit Co. in Somers Point and Egg Harbor Township.