WASHINGTON – Leaves sprouting on trees, cherry blossoms in bloom and enough pollen in the air to fill a stadium all combine to announce the arrival of spring in Washington. But in our household, there is a different harbinger that heralds the arrival of the vernal equinox; wine samples. A lot of wine samples.
Each spring, we are inundated with wine samples from PR firms, winemakers and vineyards from around the world. They keep showing up every day and multiply in numbers like a pair of rabbits in a Fibonacci sequence.
So each week, we dutifully open the boxes and attempt to categorize the wines into groups or themes. The problem is that sometimes there are a few really interesting wines that don’t fall into any specific topic or theme. That’s when we decide to talk about a little of this, and a little of that.
One of the oldest vineyard sites in Australia is home to Chateau Tanunda. Their 2010 Chateau Tanunda Grand Barossa Riesling features flavors of lemon, lime and pineapple that blankets the tongue from front to back. Bright acidity keeps the fruit in balance on the refreshing finish. Hints of tropical fruit and just a whisper of sweetness on the finish makes this wine a good choice to pair with spicier fare. $14
According to the label, locals call the area where the 2010 Ca’ Montini Pinot Grigio Trentino “Valfredda” which means cold valley. This cooler climate allows the fruit to mature more slowly and develop into a wine that possesses a lovely nose filled with scents of tropical fruit and lemon-lime citrus. Bright flavors of mango, papaya and topical fruit echo the nose and leads to a long finish with lively acidity. Chill it down for a wonderful aperitif on a warm summer evening. $15
Bordeaux wines do not always have to be expensive to be enjoyable. The 2008 Mission St. Vincent Red Bordeaux Blend Reserve is case in point. With pleasant scents of blackberry and earthy spices and flavors of black plum, cassis and espresso, it is just the right everyday wine to serve with beef stew or soft cheeses. $20
Another delicious value from Italy is the 2007 Arnaldo Caprai Montefalco Rosso ($23). This medium-bodied red wine is a blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Sargantino grapes. Juicy flavors of red plum, dark strawberries and ripe black cherries hit the tongue upfront while waves of dried herbs and vanilla coast in on the charming finish. Perfect with antipasto or hard cheeses. $23
Not every big red wine in California comes from Napa Valley. The 2010 Gnarly Head Authentic Red hails from Lodi and is a hearty red wine that possesses generous flavors of black cherry, blueberry and mocha notes on a well-balanced stage. Characteristic black pepper spice plays out on the powerful finish. Try it with barbeque ribs. $12
The 2003 Taltarni Cephas from Victoria, Australia is a big wine looking for a cold night. A blend of mostly shiraz with a touch of cabernet sauvignon, it is a rich, decadent red wine with loads of blackberries, dark plum fruit and cassis upfront. Dried herbs and a hint of black pepper are featured on the long, impressive finish. Perfect with leg of lamb. $35