March has arrived, and really without knowing it the first two months of the year have flown by. So, let’s toast with a few tasty options, the first few to welcome the start of spring, and a few to keep you warm from the inside out on the last few nights of winter.
First planted with vines in the 9th century and established as a winery in 1612 by the Capuchin monks, Domaine Weinbach’s prized vineyard boasts gravelly sandy loam and granite pebbles, key elements in keeping moisture and heat retention in the cool climate of Alsace, France, thus ensuring perfect ripening of their organic and biodynamically farmed estate vines. With a focus on low yields, ensuring the highest quality and concentration in the fruit, and slow, gentle pressing of whole clusters of fruit after harvest, ensuring the freshness and delicacy of the wine remain intact, their Riesling, Gewurtztraminer, and Pinot Blanc wines reveal an elevated elegance with a highly aromatic profile. With energy and vibrancy, Domaine Weinbach Pinot Blanc ($29) opens with floral and citrus aromas lifting from the glass, followed by flavors of Meyer lemon, Anjou pear, and honeycomb.
There are many opportunities in wine country to enjoy an art experience. Hess, Hall, Cliff Lede, and dozens more offer art tours while enjoying a glass or two. But none are quite as exquisite as Donum Estate in Carneros. Forty large-scale, open-air sculptures are Dotted throughout the vineyards, each playing with scale, nature, and imagination. Avid collectors, Donum’s owners along with various sculpture artists collaborated on several pieces to create an exhibit that is uniquely created to fit with the land and their vineyards. It is inspiring and highly thought-provoking. Donum splendor goes beyond their property, as each estate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines exude elegance, with refinement, allowing the vineyards to speak through the wines.
From the Winside Vineyard planted in 1997 on their Russian River Estate, Donum Russian River Pinot Noir ($80) mixes Dijon and heritage Pinot Noir clones, giving cherry blossom, violet, and rose aromas, followed by layers of raspberry, wild sage, bay leaf, blackberry, and black tea.
I am a huge fan of the wines produced off Howell Mountain in Napa, and the latest release from Duckhorn is a perfect example of why. With power, structure, and elegant style, Duckhorn Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon ($100) reveals the complexity, tension, and concentration mountain-grown fruit can give to the wine, showing graphite and fresh tobacco notes melding with black plum, red and black cherry, star anise, toasted nutmeg, cedar, and dried herb. Aged 24 months, first in new French oak for 18 months and then an additional 6 months in neutral French oak, followed an extended bottle aging prior to release, helping round out the bold tannins, ensuring this new release is perfect to enjoy now or will age beautifully for at least another 10 years.
From the island of Sardinia off the coast of Italy, the Argiolas estate highlights the native varieties of the island, particularly the key red variety of the island, Cannonau, the local name for Garnacha/Grenache. Though we don’t know if the variety arrived from Spain centuries ago, as one theory suggests as the island was ruled by the kingdom of Aragon for over 400 years, although an alternative theory indicated that Cannonau originated in Sardinia. Either way, the work-horse, hot weather variety is ideally suited for the warm, sundrenched days Sardinia enjoys giving deeply colored, full-bodied red wine. With a focus on quality over quantity, Argiolas is admired for being one of the finest producers from the island. Argiolas Costera ($18) opens with showing flavors of red and blackberry, black cherries, dried woody herbs, like sagebrush and wild rosemary, and toasted spice.