DDenied my usual allotment of gorgeous “winter” patio days, I find myself irrationally eager to pop a cork outdoors to eat, drink & make merry .
Spring is finally in the air, and it’s also in the glass of the following wines–ones I’ll be quaffing until the mercury forces me in to Margarita mode to ward off the South Texas heat.
Emilio Lustau NV Puerto Fino Sherry $22
WAIT! Before skipping past this one to find a “real” wine recommendation, consider this: Never (ever!) has such a fresh bottling of high quality fino sherry been so readily available in our market. Scrap the tiny Sherry copita glasses–drink this one in regular white wine glasses straight out of the ice bucket! Its modest-for-its-category 15.5% alcohol is really no different from many a “big” CA white or red, and its freshness & delicacy on the nose and liveliness on the palate make it waayyyy too easy to drink. A revelation to me and a stunning value to boot.
J.J. Vincent 2011 Pouilly-Fuisse “Marie Antoinette” $25
OK, I’m not one to be seduced by the “Pouilly-Fuisse” appellation on a label. Too often these French Chardonnays cost half again or more what a lowly Macon from neighboring villages might run, but deliver nothing more in quality. This cuvee, however, a negociant bottling from the proprietors of the iconic Chateau de Fuisse, really delivers the goods. All Fiji-like apple blossom on the nose, it broadens on the palate to include hints of pear & apricot, only to clean up again on the finish with cool minerality. A classic example of a Chardonnay for people who hate Chardonnay: Devoid of the buttery French Toast/Cream Cheese Danish effect of most CA barrel-fermented Chards, the Vincent Pouilly-Fuisse hits all the notes many assume can only be voiced by other varietals. Serve this Wine Spectator Top 100 bottle well-chilled with or without food.
Mulderbosch 2013 Rose $12
I’m not sure what’s happening with the Rand nowadays, but this estate – bottled rose of Cabernet Sauvignon from South Africa’s prestigious Stellenbosch region is cheaper and better than ever. Bright, juicy black cherry fruit with just enough minty/blackcurranty character to tell you it’s all Cab, this bottle is a worthy addition to any patio table. Its gorgeous color and classy packaging add a visual component to its utterly delightful presence. A perennial pink pick!
David Family 2009 Monterey Pinot Noir $25
The crowd-sourced wine website Cellartracker shows this as a $40 bottle receiving 90-point-something-or-other from its owners. At $25 or less, therefore, this is my 100-point patio Pinot! Gushing with freshly crushed red cherries, it avoids the cloying jamminess of other Monterey Pinots, finishing clean & fresh rather than tawdry & gooey. Pull from the refrigerator just minutes before serving and serve in a goblet-style glass to show off its lovely aromatics.
Pingus 2011 “Psi” Ribera del Duero $35
While I unequivocally advocate moving indoors for maximum appreciation of both its $200 big-brother Flor de Pingus and its $1200 big-big-brother Pingus, this super-pretty take on Tempranillo is best enjoyed al fresco. Oak is definitely in the background in this cuvee, which achieves a balletic, Burgundian beauty that I’ve frequently found in Rioja, but never before experienced so vividly in Ribera del Duero. Again best served quite cool from Burgundy goblets, and will benefit from pairing with anything (veggies through shellfish, chicken or lamb) fresh off the grill.
Justin 2011 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon $22
In case you haven’t heard, 2011 is the worst vintage for Napa/Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon since 1998. While I don’t necessarily dislike the minty, herbacious, Bordeaux-like character of those wines, I do appreciate the beauty that Mother Nature wrought in Paso Robles Cab that year. All the cool temperature without the rains during harvest–just perfect for a region whose torrid temperatures most years melt away any tannic spine in Cabernet Sauvignon. While still full of soft black & red plumminess, the 2011 Justin has a freshness & focus not at all typical of the region. Serve in large straight-sided glasses straight from a wine refrigerator or 10 minutes out of a regular fridge. Great with or without food.