Fire Up the Grill: Spring Wines

By HOLLY ENDERSBY

I almost never recommend a Pinot Gris because I find many of them weak, insipid, and watery.

King Estates

The Pinot Gris from the King Estates south of Eugene in Oregon’s Willamette Valley just blew apart my distaste.

This wine is luscious, bright, and has great structure. Four of us tried it with alder-smoked salmon, a spinach salad and wild rice seasoned with Gram Marsala, onion, celery, and mushrooms, and it stood up to this menu perfectly.

We served the wine chilled, but not cold, and allowed it to breath for a few minutes before pouring. The wine is refreshing but has enough character to match any fish or chicken dish you can throw at it.

The King Estates grows 314 acres of organic Pinot Gris grapes, using clonally diverse plants to ensure a lower crop yield but a much more intense flavor and complexity at harvest.

The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks, never oak. If you are looking for a delicious, flavor-intense white wine for spring, you can’t go wrong with this Pinot Gris.

Newman’s Own

Sometimes drinking wine is not only good for you but good for others. That’s the case when you buy Neuman’s Own Common Good Cabernet Sauvignon.

Open the bottle, let it breathe a few minutes, then pour yourself a glass tasting of ripe, dried black cherries, just a touch of toasty vanilla and a smidgen of black pepper.

This wine has a long, smooth finish that all our tasters commented on. I find some cabernet sauvignon rather sharp, but this one isn’t edgy: in fact, it’s just perfect for a spring supper.

We tried it with cheese tortellini covered with a rich marinara sauce, accompanied by grilled eggplant touched with olive oil and garlic, and it was superb.

As a bonus, ALL profits for this wine go to Neuman’s Own Foundation, which has given over $500 million to charities since its inception in 1982. So, go ahead, buy this wine, and know you’re helping others at the same time.

Rodney Strong

Well, surprise, surprise, here we are back at one of my favorite wineries: Rodney Strong. This time we tried the Sonoma County 2014 Merlot and were not disappointed.

As always, we asked friends who were not crazy about merlot to try it, and this wine pleased them all. For some reason Merlot has taken a backseat to Pinot Noir, especially in California, but I find that a good merlot—and this is one—can enhance just about any meal and palette.

Not all merlots are the same, and I really don’t care for those that are sweet, but this one has a yummy taste of deep purple plums and dark berries without being cloying. The soft tannins make for a smooth finish that is irresistible. We served this with a spring pizza, cooked on the grill, featuring artichokes, Greek olives, mushrooms, fresh basil, and tomato. It was terrific.

Columbia Crest

Ready to throw some blue cheese burgers on the grill or some smoky ribs? Then look no further than the 2015 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Syrah. It’s a product of one of Washington’s top wineries—they have sixteen placements on Wine Spectator’s list of Top 100 Wines and the first Washington winery in 2009 to have a wine (the 2005 Columbia Crest Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon) rated number-one by the same publication.

Syrahs are deep red, robust wines that stand up well to rich, grilled meats. Gone are the dark days of winter and now’s the time for friends to gather on the deck as dinner sizzles over hot coals.

The Columbia Crest Grand Estates Syrah has lovely notes of dark fruits, hints of currant, and just a bit of pepper and smoke, which complement grilled, marinated elk steak beautifully.

This wine is an excellent value and should be kept on hand for your outdoor dining season. MSN

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