5 Wines To Drink This Spring | #InstructorPicks

I’ll never forget the first article I read about wines to drink during springtime months. It was a number of years ago from an online magazine, and whatever the title (something about springtime sippers), it really should have been titled: “A Beginners Guide To Wine” because the author, whether it was intended or not, wrote up a list so “by the book” (a book from 1965) and so symbolic (spring means flowers, so drink flowery wines), that it almost turned me off of wine completely.

Okay: that’s a lie. And it’s possible that I’ve penned similar fluff pieces, but I’m not pointing fingers at myself. Look: whatever the case, this is one list you can swear by–and one with some unexpected springtime sippers (ahem). I asked four of our Napa Valley Wine Academy instructors to 1) think of wines they would like to drink (or have been drinking) this spring and 2) to up the ante by suggesting wines that might provide good examples of classic expressions of the varietal wine in question–that way you get to do your homework and drink it too. We’ll be sharing more “#InstructorPicks” in the near future. For now, here’s to spring.

– JC, Editor-in-Chief, NapaValleyWineAcademy.com

Spring time Wine Picks
Corkscrew graphics by thegraphicsfairy.com


The wine (top left): Honig 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, California, USA ($TK)

The grapes: 93% Sauvignon Blanc, 6% Semillon, 1% Muscat
The region: Napa Valley, CA, USA

Christian Oggenfuss, D.W.S., F.W.S., A.I.W.S., I.W.P. says: “Kristin Belair of Honig Wines is well known for producing crisp and fresh expressions of Sauvignon Blanc. She shows her deft hand at crafting one of the best examples of balanced Napa Valley sauvignon blanc–aromas of fresh peaches, Meyer lemon, hints of jasmine and just a touch of New Zealandesque herbaciousness. A great example of a medium bodied sauvignon blanc with a refreshingly crisp finish.”


The wine (top right): Stony Hill Vineyard 2010 Chardonnay ($42) (stonyhillvineyard.com)

The grapes: 100% Chardonnay
The region: Napa Valley, CA, USA

Catherine Bugue, D.W.S. says: “This wine has some nerve. Literally, a beautiful nerve of acidity running through it with a rich mouth feel, all perfectly balanced by citrus and stone fruits and earthy (mineral, stony) flavors. Stony Hill Chardonnay is proof that Napa Valley makes white wines that can age gracefully and deliciously. This chardonnay is still young. There are no dominating oak-influenced flavors in the wine; it is pure Napa Valley chardonnay by a historic producer of the grape. Fred and Eleanor McCrea first planted their Spring Mountain vineyard in 1947, and produced their first wine, the Chardonnay, in 1952. Only 200 acres of Chardonnay existed in all of California back then. Confession: I once went out of my way to attend a tasting event solely because I wanted a glass of Stony Hill Chardonnay. I had the wine, and left. The winery held a recipe contest aimed at pairing a dish with its chardonnay and this is last summer’s winner: Mussels in Saffron Cream Sauce.


The wine (middle left): Ken Wright 2013 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA ($25) (kenwrightcellars.com)

The grapes: 100% Pinot Noir
The region: Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA

Brenda Audino, C.W.E., S.G.D., WSET Certified Advanced says: “For a genuine taste of Oregon I always go to Ken Wright Cellars located in Carlton Oregon nested in the Willamette Valley. Ken is a well respected winemaker of over 20 years and a pioneer in cultivating single vineyard Pinot Noir wines, which continue to set the bar incredibly high. Beyond his single vineyard offerings, this wine is a blend several of his single vineyards–and a great value wine. The wine has subtle earthiness and mushroom with a core of ripe cherry. This is a lush and pure Pinot Noir that speaks of its birthplace in Oregon. I love it with grilled Salmon!”


The wine (middle right): Jean-Maurice Raffault 2012 ‘Les Galuches’ Chinon, Touraine, Loire Valley, France ($17) (jean-maurice-raffault.com)

The grapes: 100% Cabernet Franc
The region: Touraine, Loire Valley, France

Gence Alton, D.W.S. says: “The intense purity of Cabernet Franc can only be found in the Loire and this wine is living proof of that. Galuches is the name of a lieu-dit planted in the 1830s, a special tiny vineyard named after the gravel and sandy soils that once was the river bed. The Raffault family has been making wine for 14 generations–sustainability has always been one of their priorities, which may help to explain why this is such a good wine. Aromatic right from the first whiff, with a bouquet of violets, followed by a lush and supple mix of dark berry and tart cherry fruits on the palate as well as smokiness and gamey cured meats in the background.”


The wine (bottom center): J Vineyards NV Brut Rosé, Russian River Valley, California, USA ($38) (Jwine.com)

The grapes: 66% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay, 1% Pinot Meunier
The region: Russian River Valley, California, USA

Jonathan Cristaldi, WSET Certified Advanced picks: “This rosé, like all of J Vineyard’s sparkling wines, is made in the Méthode Champenoise style. And, interestingly, the dosage is made from a blend of reserve wines and pure cane sugar (like your favorite Mexican Coke), only, I would take a bottle of this over a Coke, any day, any week, month, year…

In the glass, a vibrant pink salmon hue shimmers while fresh strawberries with a touch of cream and notes of brioche tickle the nose, then incredibly bright red fruit–raspberries especially–fill the palate, all underscored by zippy and refreshing acidity. Is this a wine that’s going to train your palate to nail the blind tastings in your Advanced WSET courses? No, but it sure will taste of divine victory as a celebratory drink when you pass with distinction.”

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