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What To Drink Now: Easter Wine

Ricossa Moscato Vineyards in Piedmonte, Italy
Ricossa Moscato Vineyards in the hills of Piedmonte, Italy

Easter Sunday brunch is a time for celebration, a time to bring family and friends together with great food and beautiful glasses of wine. If you are staying in for Easter brunch, here are a selection of wines ideal to pair with anything from smoked salmon to beef tenderloin. A few were sent in for editorial consideration.

ricossa barberaBecause you are usually enjoying Easter brunch around noon, keep the alcohol levels in mind when choosing your wines. A refreshing Moscato, like my favorite from Ricossa ($15,) has an incredibly low alcohol level (about 5%) with a floral, fruity flavor profile. The slightly effervescent wine does have a touch of residual sugar, so there is sweetness to the wine, but it is balanced nicely with bright acidity and layers of citrus and apple notes, perfect for starting your afternoon or even pairing with your French toast. Ricossa also makes an incredibly approachable and nicely rounded Barbera d’ Asti ($25) that I love. Barbera is a great food wine, light enough to be enjoyed with cheese and cured meats, or pairing well with roasted pork tenderloin, ham or grilled game with red cherry, woody herbs and spice notes. Available at Whole Foods and Spec’s stores.

GaiaThalassitis AssyrtikoIf seafood is on your menu a chilled white wine, or even a light red is perfect.  For the whites, consider the very dry, acidic, citrus fruit filled Assyrtico from the island of Santorini, Greece. Gaia Estates Thalassitis Assyrtico is from 70-80 year old basket vines with a mineral and juicy citrus fruit palate, finishing with a touch of honeysuckle, making this wine perfect for whole grilled white fish, sardines or grilled shrimp. $28 at Spec’s.

Fiano from Italy also features an acidic, aromatic punch with steely minerality melding with tree fruit and fresh citrus. Masseria Li Veli Fiano from Puglia, Italy is crisp and light, yet balanced and well rounded for an approachable and completely enjoyable wine on its own, or with light seafood dishes. $11, available at Jimmy’s Food Store and Pogo’s.

Rocca bernardaAlso from Italy, Ribolla Gialla is grown in the northern region of Friuli Venezia Giulia by Rocca Bernarda. This wine is as special for what is in the bottle as it is for the story behind it. The wine is filled with green apple, ripe golden pear and fresh lemon notes with subtly and softness making it delicious with simply prepared fish or fresh spring salads. The back-story is this wine is from the vineyards of The Order of Malta, a 900 year old Catholic Religious Order that provides global relief efforts to those affected by natural disasters. Today their vineyards are some of the most prized in Italy, combining great wine and charity together. Clayton Fritz, Proprietor of Fritz Cellars has secured the ability to bring these wines into the US with proceeds going back to The Order of Malta and their relief efforts. $27 available here.  Fritz is also importing a white Grechetto from Castello di Magione in Umbria that would pair well with heartier fish dishes, roast pork or chicken.

Chardonnay is the obvious go to for roast chicken, and the Carneros region of Napa Valley grows some of the best in the country, benefiting from the maritime climate of cool mornings and evenings with fog resting on the vines, hot summer days and swift breezes throughout the day. Cuvaison selects the best fruit from their 44 estate blocks for their Estate Chardonnay, which they take a very hands off approach with, letting the flavor of the fruit shine by barrel fermenting the fruit in whole clusters and aging it for 8 months in partially new French oak barrels. The result, Chardonnay with character, filled with ripe pear, stone fruit – white peach and apricot, and layers of spiced citrus cream. $22 at Spec’s.

wild yeast viognierFor something a bit different, try the barrel aged, Miner Family Wines Wild Yeast Viognier. Very small production, so when it is available you need to grab it, filled with white flower and citrus aromas melding with the roundness of the slow fermenting native yeasts to create a wine with texture, character and lively freshness, clearly displaying the love Dave Miner has for these Rhone varieties. Miner Wines are available locally at Sigel’s stores, though the Wild Yeast Viognier, $35, is available through the Miner website.

Russian River is the ideal growing region for Pinot Noir, which is also the ideal red wine to serve with a light lunch or brunch. McMurray Ranch highlights cherry, cola and red berry notes in their Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, melding with light earthy, forest floor notes creating an easy drinking, balanced wine. $35 available at Spec’s.

visionMac McDonald of Vision Cellars prides himself on making Pinot Noir with a relatively low alcohol level, so you experience the flavor of the fruit and not the weight of the alcohol. There are few better than his Gary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir from Santa Lucia Highlands is bold and rich without weighing you down, perfect for afternoon sipping. Red berry, black cherry and spice accentuate this lush wine with an expressive finish, perfect with roasted ham, salmon or earthy mushroom dishes. $48 available via the Vision Cellars website.

One of the best values with quality for a Pinot Noir is made in the Central Coast of California by Garnet Vineyards, perfect if you are having a group over and need a lot of something affordable and crowd pleasing. About $11 a bottle at Total Wine and More the wine is filled with layers of cranberry, blackberry and juicy ripe cherry with layers of sweet baking spice like cinnamon and nutmeg.

cetamuraIf roast lamb, game or brisket are on your menu go for a heartier red, but still keep the alcohol in check by going Old World, like a Right Bank Merlot based Bordeaux, Chianti or one of the many beautiful Tempranillo based red wines of Spain.  Badia a Coltibuono (Abbey of the Good Harvest in Italian) in Tuscany produces expressive Sangiovese based Chianti on their historic property that dates back to 1051 when the Abbey was founded by monks of the Vallombrosan Order. Their youthful Cetamura is a Sangiovese and Canaiolo blend fermented in stainless steel then bottle aged for a short period of time to help round out the fleshy black cherry and blackberry notes in the youthful, fresh and balanced wine. $10 available at Jimmy’s Food Store.

Vizcarra Senda del Oro 100% Tinto Fino (or Tempranillo in the Ribera del Duero region of Spain) is also a youthful, fresh and lively wine from vines grown in gravel and clay soils, adding earthy depth and minerality to ripe red and black fruit flavors. Aged for a short time in both French and American oak after undergoing malolactic fermentation the wine has layers of spice, pepper and hints of caramel and coconut, making it a wine that is easy to enjoy with or without food, especially grilled meats. $17 available at Goody-Goody stores.

prazo-de-rorizPrats & Symington take traditional Port varieties and make them into bold and robust, yet balanced and fresh still wine. Their Prazo de Roriz from the Douro blends the traditional Portuguese field blend of grapes together for this small production wine filled with layers of fresh herbs, black fruit and spicy pepper. A great wine with anything cooked on the grill. $18 available here.

Right Bank Bordeaux tends to lead their blend with Merlot and Cab Franc, both lighter and filled with more floral and herbal notes than some of its sister varieties, like Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. Chateau Larcis Ducasse has been making wine in the hills of St. Emilion for hundreds of years, with the demand for wine from property’s vines dating back to the 4th century. Their low yielding Merlot based blend highlights layers of black cherry, licorice, fresh herbs and smoky spice for a full-bodied wine that is balanced and maintains freshness.  Sigel’s has this as well as a slew of other current and late vintage Bordeaux on sale now through the first week of May, on sale now for $105.