Here in the desert, we’ve got to seize the spring day because that dominant sun overhead is poised to squeeze the green right out of our pasta primavera.

And one way to maintain a little semblance of a springtime breeze is to enjoy an absolutely tasty refreshing white wine being served around town at our local wine bars and wine shops.

Predictably we can reach for Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay, but I’m thinking that we can go outside the box-wine and treat ourselves to a sexy energizing quaff that both refreshes the heart and mind with nuances of new savors & zests.

The key to a crisp refreshing white wine is a good vein of acidity with a low alcohol content. That’s why we commonly reach for that Sauv blanc or a light un-oaked Chardonnay. These wines can carry that profile with a fair shake of complexity. But this spring we wish to treat ourselves to something a little more exotic, racy and fun.


So being an equal opportunity vino lover I gave a call to one of the desert’s foremost wine gurus, Costa Nichols of Desert Wine & Spirits, Palm Springs, 760.327.7701.  Costa’s mission  was to immediately recommend a favorite Springtime quaffer that he’s offering at a great price.  Let’s face it: he’s got a boatload of delicious wine at his shop, so it’s kinda fun to put these guys on the spot.

Hey! We’re pros—we can do this stuff!  Anyway–Costa calmly responds, “Hard to choose, but this is a true winner: 2011 Le Rote Vernaccia di San Gimignano” [ver-NAH-chyah dee sahn jee-mee-Nyah-noh].  At only $14.99 a bottle–what a great recommendation!

We know that Tuscany produces great reds, and, the only really well-known white wine—that  by far has the most interesting aromas and flavor traits—comes from a small city northeast of Siena whose characteristic towers have made it one of the most popular tourist destinations: San Gimignano. It was Michelangelo’s son’s favorite wine back in the 1600s and the wine hasn’t changed all that much.

I’ve enjoyed this wine in previous vintages which have exhibited citrus peel, earth, flowers, ginger, herbs, honey, and nuts.  It’s great with appetizers, fish, pastas, and salads and has enough to it, including a lightly bitter almond finish, to make it worthy of sipping alone.

For this 2011 vintage, Costa’s comments are, “The wine is a bright, exciting, floral delight with cleansing citrus and a lush body. It combines a dry, crisp minerality with a hint of tart pear and mouth cleansing acidity.”

I next called my friend Jimmy Absmeier at LQ Wines, La Quinta 760.771.8466, and, gave him the same mission. Jimmy’s a good guy—but he got two bites of the apple—which I’m allowing, as you’ll see below.  But Jimmy—you owe Costa and me another choice sometime/somewhere.

Obviously, Jimmy was vacillating: We all love the name Flying Nymph with its 2011 white Rhone blend of Rousanne and Marsanne. Traditionally, this French blend produces a rich heavier wine—not a refreshing light. But this Paso Robles Flying Nymph showcases the distinctive character from the very cool 2011 vintage, making this white a leaner, crisper, and brighter wine than previous vintages. Aromatics of honeydew melon, orange zest, pink lady apple, and toasty graham cracker are pure and lively. Plenty of tart natural acidity.  Okay—that surely qualifies, and it was LQ’s settled choice.

However the alcohol content is listed at 15%! This is way over budget from the whites we prefer at around 9 to 11%.  Fine—we’ll recommend this one for a nice spring dinner al fresco.  Another great buy at $14.99

The other choice he wrestled with was the Nisia Verdejo [vehr-DEH-loh] from the north Altlantic coast of Spain.

Lemons, pears, and dried mangos compete in the nose, while the mouth has more citrus. It finishes with soft mineral notes. An excellent warm weather quaffer.  The vines used for Nisia are more than 50 years old, and you can taste the quality in this wine.

Grown in poor soil—mostly river stones and sand, the results are a level of concentration that is seldom experienced in white wines. It has intense flavors not drastically dissimilar to those of Sauvignon Blanc, but less herbal.  The wine is well-balanced and somewhat soft in acidity.  Great with poultry, pork, flavorful fish and legume dishes. It’s another treat at $16.99 a bottle.

Now—my humble recommendation for springtime is a Pinot Grigio.  WHAT!? You ask! After a year of reading my articles, you guys know I’m not a Pinot Grige fan—it’s such a very quiet wine.

But not this baby!  The 2011 Carducci Pinot Grigio is the best California Grige I’ve tasted. It’s got full throttle classic complex yet smooth flavors of citrus, pear, melon, mango, and herbs with a chalk-like minerality reminiscent of a premier cru Chablis.  Refreshing, cleansing, invigorating, and tasty—it’s my spring fling this season at $18.99 a bottle.

It’s an Italian heritage grape yielded from the Cold Creek vineyard in the Carneros region of Sonoma County.  What a great place for the grape to grow up in California.

Robert Mott at the Wine Bar in Old Town, La Quinta 760.564.2201, has carried this wine before and will be happy to sell a case at 10% discount.

Here’s to your spring fling! Cheers!

Rick conducts & entertains at various wine events & tastings. Contact