I've picked up a rather severe case of spring fever. I am aching to engage in outdoor activities that it isn't quite warm enough for; I'm also feeling the tug of lighter red wines and fresh whites that accompany warmer weather. But it isn't 80 degrees just yet, is it? April can still get chilly, and requires flexibility in one's wine choices. Marching toward the warmth of May, you still spend a lot of time with hearty roasts, earthy beans, and wintry soups. Red wines that will, in just a few more weeks, evoke fantasies of charcoal smoke and plastic flatware are perfect for such foods right now.
One outstanding example is the Finca l'Argata Montsant 2004 (Bacchus Importers, Ltd., $25). Soil types from this region of Spain, a stone's throw from Catalonia, include slate, granite, and chalky clay.
This sort of stark minerality is evident in this blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan. Of course, a blend of these three grapes is going to be a strapping wine, and this one certainly delivers. Great fruit presence, sturdy but balanced tannins, and that streak of fine chalkiness compels this plump red to sing with just about anything.
There are a couple of holidays floating around this month, and that means family gatherings where a crowd-pleasing red of a less esoteric nature is called for. That's where a wine like the MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2005 (Reliable Churchill, $15) can be quite useful. It delivers the plush red fruit notes that devotees of Pinot Noir swoon for, without the overt sweetness and stout alcohol that can mar some Californian examples. It is soft without being boring, delivering good Pinot Noir character for minimal investment. It also serves as a handy mid-weight red for cool-weather grilling, if you can't take the cabin fever any longer.
Cabin fever may just be responsible for my last pick of the month, Tamellini Soave 2003 (Vintner's Selection, $15). Here is an absolutely delicious white, hailing from the Veneto region of Italy, that has just enough weight for earthier fare and is as pleasingly aromatic as springtime blossoms. Yes, yes, I know 2003 was supposed to be a poor vintage for white wines throughout Europe—and it should be getting tired by now, too. I hear you, but this is a prime example of a meticulous producer making a delicious wine in a screwy vintage. It contains notes of citrus, melon, and almonds; a fine finish spurs you onto another taste. Or glass. Or carafe. If this is Tamellini's 2003, I can't wait for the 2004 and 2005. Just the thing for pasta with spring peas, and it's also a fine companion for tasks like cleaning lawnmower blades and lubing up bicycle chains.