March is a tricky month in Maryland. It can be sunshine and daffodils outside just as easily as it can be howling wind and driving snow. If it warms enough to fire our vernal desires, the temptation to grill is great. Snow drifts outside, on the other hand, keep us in the mood for hearty winter fare—one needs energy to clear a space on the street big enough to display one's lawn furniture. Ahh, what to drink, what to drink?
Philippe Faury Condrieu 2004 ($40)
This white wine with richness and body
can handle anything from roasted birds to poached fish and also grilled scallops. Made in the Northern Rhône area of Condrieu from the Viognier grape, this wine impresses with its floral aromatics. Smelling it isn't entirely unlike opening the door to a greenhouse. But it isn't all airy and delicate; it has plenty of body and length, and a viscous heft that makes it suitable for wintertime eats as well somewhat lighter fare. If you've never experienced Viognier before, this is an outstanding example: exotic, perfumed, and captivatingly delicious. (Wines, Ltd.)
Château le Carillon Pomerol 2004 ($30)
Once the weather truly yields to spring, my grill gets a regular workout, and I tend to gravitate to bolder reds from Southern France, Italy, and California. So now, while my carnivorous cravings are still mostly tied to the stovetop and oven, I'm going to get in a good dose of Bordeaux. Bordeaux is a complicated matter, with wines ranging from simple, cheap, and cheerful to bunker- and budget-busting behemoths. Bordeaux is home to two of the great red wine grapes of the world, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Rarely are Bordeaux wines made from exclusively one or the other, but are often blends, dominated by one and including other players, like Cabernet Franc and Malbec. Le Carillon Pomerol is a mix of 85 percent Merlot and 15 percent Cabernet Franc. It offers tremendous appeal, with layers of juicy black fruit, notes of cedary pencil shavings, and firm tannins that add structure without drying out the wine or demanding to be cellared for ages. It makes me thirsty just writing about it. (LVDH)
Nino Franco Prosecco "Rustico" (NV, $15)
I can't seem to keep enough sparkling wine in the house these days. I rarely think of it in time, and then there is some sort of bubbly emergency and nothing to be done for it. I've got to be better about stocking up on affordable sparklers, especially in March. Who knows what could happen? The sun could come out and we'll want to hit the deck, toasting the promise of this year's garden. Or maybe we'll be snowed in, fireplace blazing, and casting about for something to kick off the sort of activities that folks may, on occasion, engage in when snowbound. March is madness, and it's better to be safe than sorry. Make sure to have at least a couple bottles on hand. This delightful slice of effervescence hails from the Veneto region of Italy, where Prosecco is consumed with abandon. It is meant to be an all-purpose companion to good times of all kinds, and not limited to grand occasions—and it's priced accordingly. (Vintner's Selection)