8 North Coast wines to sip this spring
The verve of spring has arrived in vineyards across Sonoma County, where this year’s vintage has pushed past the infancy of bud break into a cadre of youthful green leaves.
But new beginnings aren’t just occurring in the vineyard. Spring also ushers in a bevy of new wine releases — the freshest offerings from barrel (or tank) to bottle.
In spring, winemakers often release white wines, rosés and lighter-bodied reds — selections that need less aging to tame their tannins and build complexity. Spring wines are often bright and vibrant, just like the season.
But blink and you may miss them. Some spring releases, like Unti Vineyards Rhone-centric rosé, have a cultlike following and can sell out quickly. And at most wineries, wine club members nearly always call first dibs. (Tip: Sign up for a winery email list to ensure you stay informed of new releases throughout the year.)
The 2022 growing season
Wines released in the spring often provide the first taste of last year’s harvest and begin to build a broader picture of the quality and characteristics of wines for the entire vintage.
In 2022, the growing season began with favorable conditions across the North Coast appellation, which includes Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, Marin and Lake counties and parts of Solano county.
Following an early bud break, mild temperatures lasted until late August, when an extreme heat wave enveloped the state. Some growers scrambled to pick early while others took a deep breath and let the fruit hang.
Ripening accelerated in many vineyards across the county. Then came the rain.
In the Wine Institute’s 2022 Harvest Report, Lisa Amaroli, director of winemaking at Benziger Family Winery in Glen Ellen, said the successive heat and rain had a “whiplash effect, pushing up the sugars then reversing them after the rain.
“It was definitely a harvest for the record books,” she said.
Despite the season’s challenges, local growers and winemakers agree the quality of the fruit was high, with smaller berries and clusters pointing to an excellent 2022 vintage.
With that in mind, here are some of my favorite new wine releases for spring 2023.
Eight to try
Idlewild Wines, 2022 Flora & Fauna White Wine, North Coast ($30)
Blend: arneis, muscat canelli, favorita, erbaluce and cortese
Winemaker: Sam Bilbro
The 2022 Flora & Fauna white wine from Idlewild Wines in Healdsburg is a Piedmontese-inspired blend of arneis, muscat-canelli, favorita, erbaluce and cortese — a delicious union rarely found outside Italy.
Winemaker San Bilbro sourced the grapes from sites in the Russian River Valley and Mendocino County, with Fox Hills vineyard “lending depth,” Lost Hills vineyard “balancing the vibrancy and bright aromatics” and Rancho Coda vineyard providing “a core of fruit and mouthfeel,” Bilbro said.
“In the end, Mendocino is on display with high and low tones and a very pleasant rusticity, while the Russian River Valley fills in the gaps to make the wine cohesive,” he said.
The Flora & Fauna white is imbued with the scent of orange blossoms, with wet stone minerality, lemon zest and pear on the palate. It would be a conversation-worthy addition to any spring gathering, even if it’s just a party of one.
For more information, visit idlewildwines.com.
Bricoleur Vineyards, (NV) Isla Rose Brut Rosé, Sonoma County ($50)
Blend: 72% pinot noir, 23% chardonnay, 3% pinot gris and 2% pinot meunier
Winemaker: Cary Gott
Bricoleur co-founder Mark Hanson created this sparkling rosé to “embody the entrepreneurial spirit of strong female leadership in the wine industry.” Named after his first granddaughter, Isla Rose, the wine also plays homage to his daughter, Sarah Citron, and his wife, Beth Hanson, both of whom helped found the winery and play key roles at the estate.
Fun fact: Beth’s great-grandfather, Pietro Carlo Rossi, was the original oenologist at the historic Italian Swiss Colony winery.
Bricoleur’s brut rosé is a blend of pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot gris and pinot meunier sourced primarily from the maritime-influenced Carneros region. Aromas of strawberry, watermelon and red cherry are followed through with bright notes of raspberry, with a bright, dry finish.
For more information, visit bricoleurvineyards.com.
Sutro, 2022 Sauvignon Blanc, Alexander Valley ($35)
Winemaker: Alice Warnecke Sutro
Winemaker and artist Alice Warnecke Sutro produces just 1,200 cases of wine per year, focusing on Bordeaux varieties grown at her home on Warnecke Ranch and Vineyard in Alexander Valley.
The 260-acre property has been in Sutro’s family for five generations. It’s where she grew up and now raises her children. While grapes have been grown on the land and sold to local wineries since 1973, Sutro is the first in her family to make wine, luckily for us.