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Welcome spring with wine pairs
Looking out my window today, I am greeted by the happy blossoms of crocus bulbs. The sun is pouring through the windows providing a wonderful napping spot for the cats.
At least three times in the past two weeks, I have stepped out to walk to the post office without a coat, only to realize that it is still brisk outside. In fact, you could say it was downright chilly. Then it dawns on me — it’s still winter.
We deserve this sunny break, after the flooding, snow, and frigid temperatures of 2009. This mild, shining season seems to be just what the doctor ordered, yet I find myself longing for true spring viciously.
Fortunately, I have a few tricks up my sleeve for bringing springtime home a little early. Of course, these plans have to do with food and wine.
In the markets this week, I have noticed the first crops of asparagus popping up, usually on sale. Nothing says “springtime” to me quite like fresh tender greens. A salad of grilled asparagus and goat cheese with a grilled herb chicken reminds me that the balm of summer is not too far away. Try pairing this with a bottle of Alexandria Nicole Sauvignon Blanc from Washington and dare your tulips not to flower.
Another way I usher out winter, at least mentally, is to adjust my selection of red wines. Now, while I love a full bodied, brooding, sexy Cabernet Sauvignon, convincing myself that spring is here requires a different tactic, one like Beaujolais.
Beaujolais is a tiny French area in the Burgundy region. The red wines are made from a delightful little grape called gamay. Gamay is known for its low tannins and high fruit concentration. Notes of red raspberry, blackberry, peaches and strawberry Hubba Bubba gum — at least for me — are typical.
You may be familiar with the appearance of a wine in November called Beaujolais Nouveau. This wine is a novelty of the region, a wine that is picked in September and available for sale in November. Please do not confuse the delicious and playful wine of this region with these bottles; they set a low expectation for one of my favorite grapes.
It is true that gamay can be almost frivolous in its expression, but look for the bottles that are a little bit more expensive ( around $15 to $25 should do it) and preferably are from “Cru” villages, areas known for making superior wines. Look for examples from Fleurie, Brouilly or Moulin-a-Vent to start.
I have said these wines can almost be considered silly, but who wants to toast a daffodil with a serious brain-bending bottle? Beaujolais loves bacon, or any smoky, earthy dishes. I love it with simple pork chops.
As a sommelier, I am fortunate enough to get to study all types of alcoholic beverages. I would be seriously lacking in my duties if I failed to mention another option for spring. I speak of beer.
I have been known to be seen at the Snoqualmie Falls Brewing Company on a fairly regular basis, and I will tell you dear reader, with all of the sincerity of a true epicurean, that they make some of the best beer in the land. Their Spring Fever is out now and a wonderful celebration of the coming season.
The New Belgium brewing company makes a delicious beer called Sunshine Wheat that sends my taste buds skipping. Other must-tries are the intoxicating Belgian offerings from a brewery called Lindeman’s. They make lambics, or beers made by spontaneous fermentation — they let natural yeasts ferment their beers instead of inoculating them.
Lindeman’s is famous for their fruit beers, which are on the sweet side and almost masquerade as smoothies. They come in many flavors, but I recommend the raspberry, or “ Framboise.”
Embrace this odd season! While spring may not have yet sprung, it is waiting patiently, right around the corner.