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Freshen Up! Spring Wines Are Here!

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Ah, spring. It’s one of my favorite times of year! There’s just something hopeful in the promise of a new vintage cultivated by the perfect blend of rain, sunshine and those darling fresh vines reaching across the trellis shoulders. 

If you hold a romantic notion that this is the winemaker’s easiest time of year in the vineyard, just head out to endless rows of vines and note that the dried vines of harvest were cut back and the vineyard workers are working to prune each vine by thinning the shoots—by hand. This is essential to groom and train the vines to grow in a desired direction and pattern to help them flourish. The soil has been tended very carefully and the new season has begun.

Bud Break
It’s definitely the time of year for bud break. If you do an online search for bud break in your area, you can track if the little buds on the grapevines have “broken” and begun the process of flowering. With the diversity of America’s wine grape growing regions, this can be March through April depending on
environmental conditions.

Bud break activities are catching on with wineries and wine enthusiasts. Celebrations may include winemaker dinners, pairings and live music. We can hike through vineyards, walk the beautiful properties and truly enjoy the nature surrounding the spring season. The best part of bud break are events that celebrate availability of new releases for everyone to taste and enjoy. Some of the wines will be ready to drink, and others are samples of wines yet to come, which can be interesting. The best part is having so many varietals to taste in one location, so that you can learn what you like and accept the ones you don’t care for at the moment; your palate might have changed when you taste those wines again! Wineries also use this opportunity to preview the summer releases, giving us a sip of what to enjoy for outdoor recreation, picnics and summer menus.

Barrel Tasting
It’s a pastime for wine enthusiasts far and wide and the symbol that the new season has arrived. Samples from the barrel are not “finished” yet and taste different than wines that have been settled in the bottle. If you’re new to wine tasting, this is a great opportunity to chat with staff and winemakers about the blends in the barrel and why they chose that particular Hungarian oak rather than American oak. For the experienced wine lover, this can be an excellent time to take advantage of “futures” and pre-purchase wine before it’s available for retail or wine club. It’s like investing in your wine collection before the label is even printed. Sometimes the taste and complexity of future wine is so perfect at this early stage, you’d swear it’s ready to drink. That’s great harmony of vineyard and winemaker!   

Tips for Spring Barrel Tasting
Stay hydrated; packing a small cooler with bottled waters, string cheeses and fruit will go a long way to keep sustenance during your wine tasting adventure. It’s easy to overlook your thirst for water, but water is essential for ensuring healthy wine consumption.

Dress for weather, not style. We all love the latest spring fashion styles, but this is a tricky time of year, and it can be chilly and breezy both outside and inside the barrel rooms and wineries. The walkways can be moist or muddy as well, so low-heeled boots and layered clothing are perfect.

Begin with the end. Often, there’s a guide or map of barrel tasting and vineyard locations on a route. I like to start at the end of the route and make my way toward the front to avoid heavier crowds. This also allows me to savor those winemakers and ask questions about the wines without putting additional time constraints on my group.

Take it with you! When you taste something that catches your fancy, buy it. Some of the offerings at this stage in the season are limited production and available at great value. If you find a new varietal or blending style that really catches your attention, take home a case and enjoy it knowing you seized a tasty opportunity.

Entertaining in spring may include Easter dinner, picnics or the kickoff to progressive dinners with friends or neighbors. Feel like hosting a gathering? Take advantage of all the fresh blooms available and kick off a 2020 house party for a buffet in which each guest brings a new fresh wine and a dish to share. Excellent choices are lighter red wines such as beaujolais or red blends of sangiovese, pinot noir and grenache. Steel-aged chardonnay, viognier and vermentino wines are also fresh this time of year. Of course, you can’t go wrong with a nice sparkling wine. Who could resist welcoming spring with bubbles in their glass?