At Counter Reformation at Parker Palm Springs, director of restaurants George Larsen favors Domaine Yves Martin Chavignol Sancerre.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MOLLIE KIMBERLING
Spring has sprung, and with it comes perfect patio weather — and the excuse (as if we needed one) to whittle away a sunny afternoon while sipping something delicious. But what do you want in your glass as the temperatures rise? We asked three area experts what they’ll be pouring this season.
Crisp, cold whites are an ideal complement to spring. Wine lists across the Coachella Valley are spotlighting options that go well beyond the old guards like sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, and chardonnay, swapping in Mediterranean-grown varietals that are gaining popularity with Americans, such as Spanish albariño.
“Five years ago, people were like, ‘What is that?’ Now it’s become a little more mainstream,” explains Andie Hubka, chef and owner of Cork & Fork, Heirloom Craft Kitchen, and Tu Madres Cantina & Grill in Indio. “It’s a great spring wine because it’s low-alcohol, high-acid, and super food friendly. It tastes great [when it’s] well chilled, and it’s really affordable.”
Vinho verde (which literally translates to “green wine”) from Northern Portugal is another top pick.
“I really love Azahar vinho verde. It’s from the Atlantic Coast,” says George Larsen, director of restaurants for Parker Palm Springs, home to trendy wine bar Counter Reformation. “It’s really crisp and perfect with seafood, so to me, it’s the perfect pairing for those warmer spring months.”
German Samayoa Spanish features albariños, such as La Caña, at his La Fe Wine Bar.
“As soon as it starts to warm up here a bit, you get patio weather, and that’s when we go super rosé crazy. It’s our favorite,” Hubka says. “It’s the best of both worlds. It has the body of red wine, but it’s soft and floral and not as tannic, so you can pair it with pretty much anything. That’s definitely my spring go-to.”
Rosés can be derived from just about any grape, and Larsen is especially fond of those produced in Sancerre, the medieval wine-growing town in France’s Loire Valley. With notes of peach, pear, and citrus, rosé of Sancerre has become a mainstay on the menu at Counter Reformation.
Larsen recommends Domaine Yves Martin Chavignol Sancerre. “It really has the minerality and you get a little lemon,” he shares. “I like to say it takes you to the beaches of St. Tropez.”
Andie Hubka recommends the Labrusca, a juicy Italian lambrusco, at her restaurant, Cork & Fork.
Carbonic wines, including the Samsara carbonic syrah, appear as fruit-forward reds in Coachella Valley shops.
While we often think of red wine as something to shelve until fall, lighter, chilled reds can be a great option for imbibing in the spring.
German Samayoa, co-owner of La Fe Wine Bar in Palm Desert, recommends pinot noir, a thin-skinned red grape native to Burgundy that thrives in California’s cooler, coastal wine-growing regions. “We switch up pinots all the time, but you can’t go wrong with a Carneros pinot noir or a Russian River pinot noir. Those areas produce really nice ones.”
Also consider carbonic wines — usually light-to-medium reds that undergo a carbonic maceration technique to soften their tannins. Some of the standouts Samayoa has offered on La Fe’s menu include a carbonic syrah from Samsara Wine Co. in Santa Barbara County and a carbonic sangiovese
from Union Sacre winery in Paso Robles.
“They’re absolutely great for warm weather,” he says.
And if you haven’t ever tried an Italian lambrusco, Hubka implores that you order one this season “You drink it cold, and it’s sparkling,” she explains. “So it’s refreshing, but it has all the hallmarks of a red wine: It’s juicy and big and rich — and not timid.”
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