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Springtime calls for crisp, light wines


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POSTED: Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Spring is upon us. How quickly time flies. The climate change from winter to spring is certainly not as drastic in Hawaii as in other parts of the country, but there are changes nonetheless.

One of the most noticeable changes is to restaurant menus, as seasonal foods make their way to the islands.

For wine lovers, this can also mean a change in the wines we drink, especially with meals. It is time to stock up on fresh, lively, crisp, refreshing styles of wines. Here are a few for you to check out.

Maui's Winery “;Rose Ranch Cuvee”; ($22): Yes, it's time again to chill down some bubbly and what better way than with this dry, deliciously fruity, light-bodied sparkling wine grown and produced on Maui. It sure can make a tough day better! For those who think this is just a novelty, take a trip to Ulupalakua and spend a little time with Paula, who runs the operation, and Ben, the winemaker. Their passion is quite evident and really infectious. You will quickly join the club of believers.

2007 Quenard Chignin ($16): Here is a fascinating white wine from Savoie, France, the same region that has hosted the Winter Olympics, which means mountainous countryside. Chignin is actually the name of the village. Quenard's vineyard holdings range from 2,000 to 6,000 feet elevation on impossibly steep, rocky hillsides. This partially accounts for how effortlessly light-bodied and crisp this delightful, thirst-quenching find is. At roughly $16 a bottle, it is a steal, when one considers what it takes to farm and pick these vineyards. Think simply prepared seafood and light salads as a match.

2007 Palmina Tocai Fruilano “;Honea Vineyard”; ($18): This mineral-scented, crisp and refreshing Italian look-a-like, grown and produced in the Santa Barbara region of California, has just arrived in the islands. I imagine serving this amazingly food-friendly American white wine with fresh-caught Island fish, sauteed with capers and butter, or with a fresh Nalo Greens salad tossed with either shrimp, seared ahi or crabmeat.

2007 Domaine Chignard Fleurie “;Les Moriers”; ($23): An au naturale cru beaujolais, all about deliciousness. I have had a love affair with this particular wine since the 1980s. I can't recall one more delicious. The 2007 is stunning and has such a wonderful perfume of ripe cherries, cranberries and the sort. It certainly is lip-smacking and light on its feet, with a real jovial, outgoing personality. With this vintage the name on the label changed from Michel (father) to Cedric (son). This is a true artisan, family-run operation, which somehow makes the wine all the more enjoyable. I would recommend serving the 2007 slightly chilled, quite a treat with contemporary Euro-Asian foods.

2007 Drew Pinot Noir “;Savoy Vineyard”; ($37): As we have noted in previous columns, 2007 is one heckuva vintage. This wine is a good example. Gorgeous, classy, elegant, seamless, this is a pinot noir well worth seeking out. But the supply is limited, so act quickly.

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Chuck Furuya is a master sommelier, a partner in the Sansei restaurants (www.dkrestaurants.com) and a consultant to Southern Wine & Spirits. This column is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals.