Vin Connections Spring Food (May 2005)


Spring Food Pairings with Top-Rated Wines Under $30!

As spring heralds longer, lighter days, enjoy lighter, livelier wines to go with them.

Spring is on the horizon. And as it heralds nature’s annual burst of glory, it also heralds a shift in the foods we eat, and the wines we drink. Moving away from more typical comfort foods and red wines of winter, spring sports lighter foods and livelier wines to go with them. In our experience, the best spring whites are refreshing, crisp, fragrant and fruity. And you can relax; these wines can be as inexpensive as they are good, as you’ll see from this months wine picks.

This Month’s Reader Question:
“Can you talk about food and wine pairings for spring?”

This Month’s Wine Pick: Spring food pairings
Wines for lamb, ham and other spring grilling favorites
Eat your veggies! Great wines for spring’s fresh greens (and reds, and…)
Complementing halibut, salmon and other seafood favorites.

This Month’s Quote:
Drinking wine or making it, you can’t love just one wine…


Spring wine pairing: Should you dig into the cellar, or find something new?

Q. “I don’t have a question so much, as a request. Can you talk about food and wine pairings? I love rich, heavy wines and so have no trouble figuring out what to drink with my osso bucco, short-rib stew, and cassoulet winter fare. But when spring rolls around and I’m confronted with all that fresh produce, the wines in my basement seem like overkill. Ideas are appreciated!”
— Shannon Everheart, Philadelphia

A. Though we can get almost anything we crave year-round nowadays, there’s something special about a trip to the spring Farmer’s Market to get one’s cooking juices flowing. Piles of greenery, spring lamb and pork, fresh cheeses, and the promise of longer days and warm nights……

In general, our thoughts turn to lighter fare that showcases the fresher flavors of spring. Like you, Shannon, instead of slow-cooked stews and rib-sticking comfort food we look to zing, crunch and simplicity. Classic ingredients such as spring onions, asparagus, pea shoots, wild salmon, and lamb can be endlessly combined, from simple grilled goodness to sauced towing contraptions. Here are a few wine friendly dishes that we at the Wine PocketList family have been indulging in recently. We hope that they inspire you too:

  • Halibut with ramp (spring leeks), morels and gnocchi. And so you don’t think we’re getting too healthy on you, house it in a generous pool of beurre blanc. Set off nicely with a light Pinot or Beaujolais for the red-wine lover, or a crisp Sauvignon Blanc or Muscadet de Sevres for the traditionalist.
  • Spring lamb with garlic and rosemary, either chops or stuffed leg, served with new potatoes and baby carrots. The perfect Sunday dinner, and suitable for an array of reds: to try something unusual, go for one of Argentina’s superb Malbecs, an earthy Codes du Rhone, or a Spanish Rioja.
  • Roasted beets with chevre and toasted walnuts. Play off the sweet beets and tangy cheese with a dry Riesling, and see how it changes with every bite.
  • Wild salmon, grilled simply on a cedar plank… or flaked into corn tortillas with corn, lime-macerated cabbage, and a drizzle of sour cream and salsa dressing. Whether on the town or in the woods, salmon is great with many wines. Think steely chardonnay, or again, Pinot Noir (the ultimate spring wine!).
  • Spring veggie pizza, topped with baby zucchini, sautéed sweet onions, and chevre. An easy spring dinner that’s fun to make with the kids. A tin of plain Italian tomato paste for the sauce, a shredding of basil… Delicious with a rich Cab Franc or easy drinking Merlot. Milk for the little ones, of course!
  • Sugared strawberries with a chiffonade of basil and mint. Bring out the semi-sweet Riesling for an elegantly simple dessert.

Though it’s the sauce and garnish that often drive our wine choices, we’ve walked out on that limb, and based this month’s wine picks around the recipes above. From peppery to sublime, we’ve recommended some pretty safe groupings that we’re sure you’ll enjoy no matter what your spring gustatory pleasures may hold.

[Do you have a wine-related question you’d like to ask? If so, contact us and you may see it answered in an upcoming issue!]


Putting the spring in spring wine and food pairings….

Wines for lamb, ham and other spring grilling favorites

2003 Viognier, Alexandria Nicole “Destiny Ridge Vineyards”
Columbia Valley, Washington
IE: A-$16, Grade A-
2002 Dolcetto, Pecchenino “San Luigi, Dogliani”
Piedmont, Italy
IE: A-$18, Grade A-
2003 Malbec, Enrique Foster
Mendoza, Argentina
IE: B+$12, Grade B+
2001 Dom. Bernard Gripa “St. Joseph Rouge”
Rhфne, France
IE: A+$25, Grade A+

Eat your veggies! Great wines for spring’s fresh greens (and reds, and…)

2001 Pinot Noir, Jekel “Winemaker’s Collection”
Monterey County, California
IE: A-$19, Grade A-
2001 Cabernet Franc, Wildhurst “Reserve, Lake County”
Lake County, California
IE: B+$16, Grade B+
2002 Merlot, Lost River “Columbia Valley”
Columbia Valley, Washington
IE: A$21, Grade A
2003 Riesling, Wedge Mountain “Dry, Columbia Valley”
Columbia Valley, Washington
IE: B+$14, Grade B+

Complementing halibut, salmon and other seafood favorites

2002 Pinot Noir, MacMurray Ranch “Sonoma Coast”
Sonoma County, California
IE: A+$20, Grade A+
2002 Sauvignon Blanc, Matetic Vineyards “EQ, San Antonio”
San Antonio, Chile
IE: A$14, Grade A
2001 Chardonnay, Bighorn “Coomsville Vineyard” Napa Valley
Napa County, California
IE: A+$15, Grade A+
2002 Pinot Gris, Navarro “Anderson Valley”
Mendocino County, California
IE: A$16, Grade A

Wine Quote

Drinking wine or making it, you can’t love just one wine…

[Making wine] is like having children; you love them all, but boy, are they different.
Bunny Finkelstein, Judd’s Hill Winery
(quoted in North Berkeley Wine Catalog, February, 1998)


Understanding our System

Grade: [A-]
Our grades represent a composite score developed using our proprietary system to blend wine quality and scoring information.

Vintage: 1999
This describes both the year of the actual grape harvest as well as the year the wine was made.

Price: $12
The prices quoted in the WPL are the “suggested retail prices” quoted by the wineries and the distributors. Though these are close to what you’d pay at the winery, you’ll often find discounts of 20% and more off these prices at retail.

Individual Evaluations: IE: A, A-, B+
This represents the number of individual reviews and ratings on which the composite grade is based, primarily representing individual reviews in top wine periodicals converted to our scale, and ratings by our tasting panel.

Wine PocketList Exclusive Categories: WPL: BBC, W, S, B
These are four exclusive WPL categories, and many wines rated by the PocketList will fall into one of these special designations.

[W] Widely Available:
These wines typically have bottling of 20,000 cases or more, making them widely available in most regions of the U.S.

[BBC] Top Buy-by-the-Case:
Based on multiple, outstanding reviews and a solid history, these are wines you can purchase by the case to grow your cellar with confidence today, and into the future!

[B] Bargain Wines:
Top-rated wines for $10 or less. Most of these can go head to head with a typical $30 bottle sporting a fancy label . . . and beat it hands down.

[S] Splurge Wines:
For most of us, spending more than $20 on a bottle of wine isn’t something we do lightly. These are wines that, while more expensive, are well worth the price.

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