No Spitting Allowed: Secular Wines for Holy Days

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Drink reviews with honest verdicts

Although Passover and Easter are two of the holiest days for two religions, for those of us who may be more secular than sacred, they are important holidays that mark the changing of the seasons from the last dregs of winter to the blossoming of full-fledged spring.

I recently tasted some wines looking for bottles that everyone might use in celebrating that change.  I found some winners and others that are merely pleasant, and all are delightfully less than $20.

 

2010 Les Charmes Macon-Lugny

I’ve always been a sucker for this chardonnay from southern Burgundy, and it certainly exemplifies spring — flowers filled with bee-tempting pollen, ripe but not opulent fruit, and a defining touch of spices around the edges. Very nice.

Verdict: A couple of glasses of Les Charmes can set you dancing around the old May Pole. ($13)

 

2010 Rutini "Trumpeter" Mendoza Torrontés

The first hit on the nose and palate is similar to the floral spiciness of a gewürztraminer, but then it’s followed by a minerally, rich metallic undertone with a finish of crisp, but not tart, lime. Substantial and distinctive.

Verdict: Perhaps not as elegant as the torrontés wines from Salta, but yet it is quite stylish and spring-flingish. ($9)

 

NV Valdo Nerello Mascalese Brut Rosé

Quite enjoyable hybrid bubbly — good volume on the palate with tastes of very ripe strawberries, rose petals, and crisp bitters at the finish.

Verdict: A very good choice as an affordable June wedding wine, whether or not you’re having a wedding. ($11)

 

2009 Los Vascos Colchagua Grande Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Red berries, chalk, tobacco, some forest floor earthiness, dry spices — but needs a better finishing crispness. One of the first Chilean cabs to make a reputation in the U.S. as a value wine, it has been bypassed somewhat by later entries.

Verdict: As we ride into Triple Crown season, this wine has proper Rothschild (Lafite branch) blood lines, but it doesn’t quite finish in the money. ($19)

 

2010 Caro "Aruma" Malbec

I like this wine — big and gamey and meaty, lots of chocolate, good acidity — but it needs some air in the glass or decanter to let it come together. It’s the product of a joint venture between the Rothschilds and Nicolas Catena — New World and Old World royalties. Great price.

Verdict: Stumbles out of the starting gate, but has the crowd roaring at the finish line. ($16)

 

2010 Le Petite Fountain Côtes du Rhônes

Mainly grenache and syrah with a nice raspberry nose, it is lean yet fruity and has some dry stemmy flavors at the finish. And yet, in spite of a good flavor profile, it has a "hole in the middle" where some mid-palate assertiveness is needed, and it seems overall weak in spite of substantial alcohol.

Verdict: At Easter brunch, serve it to family members who normally drink beer while you pour "Aruma" for everyone else — a win-win. ($12)