#35 SPRINGTIME WINES AND SPIRITS

California pinot noir is in bloom.

Kosta Browne, which has been producing standout pinot noir for 25 years, welcomes the season with its “Appellation Series.” It’s a bottled tour of winners, north to south, Anderson Valley to Sta. Rita Hills. These four pinots from the 2020 vintage are $115 each. All earn a four-star rating.

The 2020 Kosta Browne Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is a vibrant, celebratory wine, loaded with bright red fruit and more than a suggestion of vanilla. Earthier, with spice notes, is the delightful, seductive 2020 Kosta Browne Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir. The smooth 2020 Kosta Browne Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir unfolds with dark fruit. It’s heady with blueberry and blackberry. And the elegant 2020 Kosta Browne Anderson Valley Pinot Noir leads to a long finish, and a basket of berries, especially black and cran.

They’re terrific with dishes as varied as roast chicken and grilled salmon, seared duck breast and pork roast.

Goldeneye excels with its 2019 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Gowan Creek Vineyard (★★★★ $88), a bold and richly satisfying production that offers an earthy, herbaceous frame for its vivid center of blueberry and cherry. The 2020 Goldeneye Anderson Valley Pinot Noir (★★★ $60) includes fruit from the Gowan Creek, The Narrows Estate, and Confluence vineyards, for an inviting, savory wine, with a generous harvest of strawberry and raspberry, blueberry and cherry. There’s a pleasing undercurrent of spice, notably nutmeg.

These also are ideal food wines, particularly with steak and lamb, as well as duck and salmon.

The flavor-packed 2019 MacRostie Thale’s Vineyard Pinot Noir (★★★ $58) displays a stylish signature in blackberry and plum, accented with spice, annotated with black currant. This is a lush treat from the northern area of the Russian River Valley. Enjoy it with either hanger or skirt steak, roast duck or roast chicken.

PROVENCAL ROSE

Rose is the wine world’s announcement that summer is near, if not already here. Two fruity and versatile refreshers from Provence underscore the message.

Domaines Ott casually signals that it’s about time with the peachy, floral 2020 BY.OTT Cotes de Provence Rose (★★ about $23). The wine is a charming, four-grape blend led by grenache, calling for a picnic, a trip to the beach, or a poolside sip. Try it with light salads, pasta with seafood, grilled salmon cheeses such as Brie or Camembert.

The 2021 Domaine de Cala Rose (★★ about $19) is a very food-friendly number. No surprise. The peach-pink rose, made mainly with cinsault, is from the vineyard of star chef Joachim Splichal, who shaped dining out in Los Angeles for decades at Patina. His focus now is the vines. This red-fruit focused rose is spirited, minerally, perfect as an aperitif, with a salad, or complementing a shellfish platter

PAINT IT BLACK

Adding a singular hue to the spectrum of gin is Scapegrace Black (★★ $39.99). The New Zealand gin noir boasts juniper, of course, plus lively botanicals and traces of tropical fruit and citrus. Among the participants: sweet potato, pineapple, saffron, and butterfly pea flower from Southeast Asia. The color is reached by an exacting, precise sequence of ingredients and temperatures. The result is full-bodied, fruity, minty, peppery, herbaceous, and earthy. Add tonic and Scapegrace veers to lavender. It makes for a sharp-looking cocktail, as well as a tasty one.

MELLOW YELLOW

Fabrizia Spirits reveres the lemon. And the taste of Sicilian lemons makes it to Salem, New Hampshire. The liqueur produced has the zesty, easygoing, summery, and authentic flavor of southern Italy. A few sips and you’ll daydream not of New England but the Amalfi coast, Sorrento, and perhaps Sicilia, too. Fabrizia Limoncello (★★ $19.99) and its variations will lure you. Fabrizia also is a baking company and makes fine, lemony cookies ($11.99 for a five-pack, $20.99 for a ten-pack) to accompany an espresso. Additionally, the company, which started in a garage, sells canned 100-calorie vodka sodas in flavors such as Sicilian lemon, blood orange, and raspberry ($9.99 for a four-pack), limoncello biscotti (from $9.99), and limoncello whoopie pies (from $10.99). fabrizialemonbakingcompany.com

CINCO DE MAYO

Lots of Margaritas will be mixed this week. Most will be made with silver, blanco, or joven tequilas. Some cocktails and sippers may highlight the oak-aged reposado. But to sample tequila that competes favorably with whiskey and other brown spirits, consider tequila anejo for a singular sipper. Los Arango Tequila Anejo (★★★ $60 to $70), with notes of vanilla, pepper, caramel, and oak is easily recommended to celebrate independence from cliches as well as the battle of Puebla.

COGNAC ROUGE

NYAK VSOP Cognac (★★ $59.99, 750ml; $21.98, 375ml) jumps off the shelf with a limited-edition red label from rapper Young M.A. of Brooklyn, the official launcher of this “artist series” whose work has hit 300 million YouTube views. Her hit single: “Ooouuu.” You’ll detect a bit of apricot, and some nuttiness in the bottle.

FOR MOM

Motherhood Teas ($29 sampler) boxes six blends with names such as Love (summer rose with heart-shaped sprinkles), Wisdom (white strawberry, white chocolate chips, coconut), Trust (green tea, vanilla, lavender), Admiration (caffeine-free tisane with hazelnut and chocolate), Hug (berry “crème compote” with lemongrass and rose petals), and Hero (Earl Grey, vanilla green, hibiscus). Naturally, understandably, pleasantly relaxing. adagioteas.com

COFFEE COFFEE COFFEE

For a quick cup, Lardera sells 2-oz. coffee samplers in zip-lock bags for $3. Six-ounce bags are $9 each. The beans are nitrogen-flushed to ensure freshness. The Costa Rican coffees include citrusy, chocolatey Kenya Washed; Catuai Honey, suggesting cranberry and pomegranate; Tipica Honey, hinting of citrus and red apple; and Catuai Anaerobic, fruity with cherry and black currant. lardera.com

BOOKED

An essential volume for this week and lots to come: “Nachos for Dinner” (Workman Publishing, $22.95) by Dan Whalen. Starting with the “three pillars” of the nacho, a crisp base, a melty layer, and a savory top, Whalen revels in big and very big flavors, a veritable one-volume encyclopedia of nachodom, lasagna to cheesesteak. Sheet-pan dinners galore. It must have been fun to research and to taste.

Austin Rogers won more than $411,000 on “Jeopardy!” In “The Ultimate Book of Pub Trivia” (Workman Publishing, $19.95) “the smartest guy at the bar” concocts an entertaining cocktail of 300 rounds and 3,000 questions, poured into categories that range from “Monty Python” and “Nineties Hip-Hop” to “Saved By the Bell” and “Stupid Laws,” “Tom Hanks” and “NBA Finals” to “Philosophy” and “Taglines.”  Set ‘em up, Joe

A quote by Spencer Tracy on the back cover goes this way: “Not that I intend to die, but when I do, I don’t want to go to heaven, I want to go to Claridge’s.” Among the reasons must be what’s described in “Claridge’s: The Cocktail Book” (Octopus Publishing/Mitchell Beazley, $29.99) by Denis Broci and Nathan McCarley-O’Neill, respectively the hotel’s director of bars and director of mixology. In a year, Claridge’s serves 53,714 cocktails, martinis to Negronis and many more. Find yours in the mix of recipes. Effortlessly informative, handsomely illustrated, deftly poured

WHAT THE STARS MEAN

 EXTRAORDINARY

★★★★★  

EXCEPTIONAL

★★★★

EXCELLENT

★★★

VERY GOOD 

★★

GOOD

None 

fair or poor


ABOUT THE BLOGGER

For 34 years, Peter Gianotti reviewed wines, spirits, restaurants, and books at Newsday. He twice won Press Club of New York awards for food writing. Before he became a food critic, Gianotti was a Washington correspondent, a financial writer, and New York City reporter for the newspaper. His books include “Food Lovers’ Guide to Long Island” and “A Guide to Long Island Wine Country.” Gianotti received his B.A. from Fordham University, where he taught journalism; and his M.S. from Columbia University, where he also was a Bagehot Fellow. Harry, his Creamsicle-hued assistant, prefers the bouquets of riesling and pinot noir.

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