By Rick Riozza

Mother’s Day is right around the corner and it’s that time again where get to seek out and review some of the better wines at reasonable prices which are in our local wine markets.  As we always mention, here in the desert, ideal springtime weather quickly races to the heat.  This gives us a small window of time to still enjoy the reds but we all know we’re headed on to the rosés and whites.

But before we entertain with some timely quaffs, why not mention some fun quick history surrounding the generic term May Wine”.  Maybe forty years ago or so, more folks, wine lovers or not, were a bit familiar with the term.  Perhaps the times were simpler then, or, maybe there were a lot less wines on the market to think about.

But like referring to or talking about the May Pole or May Wine or even May Day, may be, a thing of the past.

Anyway, back in the day, the plant/herb, Sweet Woodruff, with its whorls of emerald green leaves and white starry flowers, was a welcome sight in late spring, and the foliage was attractive all season long. Both its smile-worthy four-petaled starry flowers, and the leaves, when dried, smell pleasantly of new-mown hay, honey, and vanilla.

Particularly native to northern and central Europe, in the Middle Ages, this beautiful little flower was perfect to fragrance the fresh local white wines just being released.  In Germany, the white Rhine wine so flavored with the Sweet Woodruff, in time, became known as the generic May Wine in Europe.

The idea certainly followed the immigrants to America, whether or not the wine recipe was followed.  With May party celebrations, the drinking of fresh “May Wine”, and the dancing and prancing of the young girls around the May Pole in their pretty May dresses, it became an annual event.

And now—a few Mother’s Day wine recommendations that will brighten her day and get us through to the remaining springtime:

So let’s start with the 2018 Smoking Loon Steelbird Rosé.  We know rosés are the continuing party favorite for gatherings and luncheons; and now with certain desert heat entering our kitchens and dining rooms, it appears to be rosé all day.

In a competitive field of rosés from about every winery around the block, I was absolutely impressed with the flavors and quality of this Steelbird Rosé.  And at around $9, it’s a great buy for a very inviting and tasty wine at the table.

Most wine folks know of the Sebastiani Family and have enjoyed their wines for decades and more.  The Smoking Loon brand is part of their wine portfolio and has amassed a large fan base for these reasonably priced wines.

This lively Steelbird Rosé is a blend of Barbera, Syrah, and Grenache, exhibiting flavors of strawberries and Bing cherries. Its clean acidity is refreshing and bright, perfect for sipping and accompanying light to medium fare.  We had this rosé with the classic plate of carnitas tacos, beans and rice, which worked wonderfully.

Looking to grab a world class Anderson Valley Pinot Noir for around $35?  Do consider the 2015 Long Meadow Ranch Pinot Noir.  This pinot from an estate vineyard in the cool California region shows its fruit in a restrained manner that allows layers of complexities to impress at each quaff.  Classic red cherry and pomegranate flavors with earth tones and violets are wound around the wine’s fine structure with a perfect balance of tannins and acidity.  It’s the pinot for Pinot Noir lovers!

Talk about a Mother’s Day meal, this pinot will pair well with duck breast & cherry mostarda, grilled quail with wild mushrooms or an artisanal charcuterie platter. 

And speaking of Mother’s Day and beyond, I just tasted through three excellent wines which I thought I would write on in a coming article; but, why wait.  Let’s talk about them now:

2018 Renaissance Rosé, (around $17)From Tuscany, this bottle reeks of Italian art because it indeed uses Michelangelo’s Creation on its label! It owns aromas of strawberry and rose petals, and subtle hints of white pepper. On the palate, it is fresh and elegant with floral tastes, refined red fruit, a balanced acidity, and a crisp finish. A wine for all seasons and reasons: Pair it with seafood, cured meats, grilled vegetables, fresh salads, lightly spicy dishes—and while you’re at it, art, romance, and culture.

2017 Dos Almos Pinot Noir Gran Reserva, (around $15)One of the most impressive and reasonably priced wines to come from Chile.  This pinot has a fruity bouquet with notes of cherry, strawberries, and raspberries, intertwined with soft spicy notes and a touch of vanilla from the French oak ageing. It has a delicate body with good acidity and smooth tannins, adding freshness and a silky texture. Good length, showing notes of red fruits, vanilla and spices; great to pair with oily fish, pasta and white meats.

2014 Feudo Principi di Buter Nero D’Avola DOC, (around $17).  Nero D’Avola has become the Sicilian darling of millennials just coming on to the wine scene.  Coming from the sunny hills of Sicily, the nose it is ample and persistent with intense, fruity notes of plum, cherries, and spice. The palate is dry and medium-bodied with mouthwatering red fruit. Hints of wild mushrooms and espresso lead to substantial, polished tannins, and beautiful graphite minerals linger on the long finish.  I love the age on this wine!  Pairs beautifully with barbecued meats and engages aged pecorino cheese excellently!

Bon Appétit! & Cheers!  Happy Mother’s Day!