Prepare for a stomach rumble.
Spring's arrival is unlike any other season's entrance. After barren winter months, a fresh crop of vegetables, fruits, and flowers become available, and as such, rousing wine pairings to complement them. Fireside sips and snacks are swiftly replaced with long afternoon park picnics—in other words, it's the perfect recipe for magical food and wine moments.
It's worth noting that the most important rule to food and wine pairings is that there are no rules. Experimentation reigns supreme when it comes to deciding what to drink with your favorite fare, as it can help you determine what you enjoy—and what you'll skip out on next time. Wine snobs be damned, if you want to drink your sauvignon blanc with potato chips whilst sunning on a patch of grass, by all means, lead the way.
That being said, if you need a few ideas to kick-start the spring season, you're in luck because we tapped a handful of industry experts (sommeliers, chefs, winemakers—the usual suspects) to give us 22 mouth-watering pairings to test out in the months ahead. Ahead, tasty ideas and where to shop their wine picks.
Rosé + Fish Tacos
For Joel Gott, vintner of Joel Gott Wines, pairing wine with food is all about experimenting with cuisine-friendly wines. "I recommend trying a rosé specifically, as it can be so versatile and work with all kinds of foods," he says. "Right now I'm really liking it with fish tacos, but it's just as good with a bag of potato chips or a simple cheese plate." His bottle starts with ripe stone fruit flavors, followed by crisp, refreshing acidity and a clean, balanced finish.
Côtes du Rhône White + Fresh Fish
Upon spring's arrival, sommelier and wine director Tonya Pitts craves the white wines of the Côtes du Rhône, which are generally blends of grenache blanc, marsanne, roussanne, and viognier. "Côtes du Rhône blancs are supple, waxy, aromatic, floral, and refreshing," she says. "An ideal food pairing is fresh fish baked in the oven with extra virgin olive oil, your favorite grain and onion, garlic, fennel, and yellow patty pan squash."
Rosé + Delicate Vegetables
"The arrival of delicate pea shoots, tender greens, and radishes make the perfect garden salads with lemon vinaigrette," Gigi's Los Angeles wine director and Nomadica founder Kristin Olzewski says. "Salad is notoriously difficult to pair with, but rosé is always a perfect spring wine option as it can stand up to bitter vegetables and bright vinaigrettes."
She suggests taking note of which region your rosé is grown in. "For instance, the Nomadica Pink River Rosé is predominantly pinot noir from Monterey. I'm a huge fan of cool-climate grapes from there because it's the deepest underwater ocean trench in the Pacific, creating a beautiful, cool microclimate." This gives the wine a pop of fresh strawberry while retaining acidity and minerality.
Pinot Noir + Salmon
For Joseph Wagner, a fifth-generation winemaker and the owner of Elouan Oregon Wines, pinot noir stands unparalleled as a varietal when it comes to food pairings. "As we head into spring and warmer weather, I love our pinot noir with a fresh salmon with arugula, feta, and quinoa; the acidity in the wine complements the fish and cuts through its richness," he says. "Plus, Elouan's fruity, earthy notes play well with the salmon's buttery, extra-savory flavor."
This spring through May 31st, Elouan is partnering with
Trees for the Future to plant a tree for every bottle of Elouan sold.
Roussanne Blend + Goat-Cheese-Stuffed Red Peppers
Chêne Bleu, located in Southern France, abides by sustainable, biodynamic, and organic viticulture and winemaking methods. "We stay very tuned into the rhythms of nature and the seasons and also drink and eat accordingly," principal of Chêne Bleu Nicole Rolet says. The winery's Aliot, a high-altitude roussanne blend with some grenache blanc and marsanne, is a rich, complex white wine that Rolet recommends for spring pairings. "Try it with goat-cheese-stuffed red peppers on a bed of arugula—a delicious and satisfying vegetarian dish," she says.
Sauvignon Blanc + Sea Bass
Spring offers longer, warmer days, and for Casillero del Diablo US brand ambassador Jake Pippin, that can only mean one thing: Grilling season is upon us. "I love pairing our sauvignon blanc with a grilled, mild, and flaky white fish like sea bass," he says. "The fruit-forward aromatic flavors in the wine counteract with the smoky flavors that the fish takes on in the grill." The sauvignon blanc is grown in Northwestern Chile, and Pippin notes that the location-specific citric characteristics stand out in the wine. "It's fresh from beginning to end, where the balance of fruit and acidity refreshes the palate."
Chardonnay + Corn on the Cob
Artesa's director of winemaking, Ana Diogo-Draper, thinks a chardonnay with bright acidity and citrus notes is ideal for the spring season. "Our Los Carneros 2018 Chardonnay is focused primarily on aromatics of lemon-citrus and white blossom while enhancing the minerality and bright, vibrant fruit flavors of citrus and stone fruits in the wine," she says. "Some of my favorite pairings for chardonnay highlight the great vegetables from my garden, like a luscious Caprese salad or fresh corn on the cob grilled on the barbecue."
Cabernet Sauvignon + Lamb Flatbread
Penfolds senior winemaker Stephanie Dutton is embracing at-home entertaining this spring with a communal table pairing you might not expect. "I recommend a slow-cooked lamb flatbread with a pomegranate, feta, and mint salad paired with a cabernet," she says. The iconic Australian wine brand recently released their California Collection, an assortment of wines that grew from vine cuttings planted in California soil back in 1998; she suggests the Bin 704 bottle for this dish. "Fine but gravelly tannins have a strong affinity for protein, and spring lamb delivers," she notes. "A slow-cooked serve of the meat on light flatbreads will team well with the accompanying salad served atop."
Sauvignon Blanc + Roast Chicken
"Spring is the time of year when I open a bottle of our sauvignon blanc to enjoy with grilled vegetables from the farmer's market and roast chicken or fish," Joseph Phelps Vineyards Napa Valley winemaker Ashley Hepworth says. She points to the wine's subtle acid structure and aromatic floral and citrus notes as the perfect pairing for lighter fare throughout the warmer seasons.
Rosé + Goat Cheese Tomato Tart
Sotheby's Wine fine wine buyer Victor Rabot is looking forward to aperitifs with friends and family throughout the warmer, sunnier days ahead. "Sotheby's Sancerre Rosé is a great choice for welcoming the spring, as it's 100 percent pinot noir and has been made by the Dezat family since 1948," he shares. "This rosé has a pronounced flinty minerality with subtle notes of cherry, strawberry, and fresh watermelon—perfect with a goat cheese tomato tart (or pretty much anything you like)."
Champagne + Asparagus
"Spring is a celebration of new life, and nothing marks a special occasion like champagne," Tannat Market & Tavern wine director Sarah Goler says. Though asparagus is notoriously hard to pair with wine, Goler shares the secret. "A beautifully balanced champagne with fine bubbles, laser-sharp acidity, and bright apple and lemon zest notes creates tremendous synergy with the bright, nutty funk of spring's most iconic vegetable," she says. "Laurence Ployez makes gorgeous sparkling wines, and her Marie Weiss Champagne Brut, a blend of 50 percent pinot noir, 25 percent chardonnay, and 25 percent pinot meunier, would be heavenly."
Riesling + Grilled Red Snapper With Asian Spices
Certified Sommelier and Üllo CTO Joe Radosevich craves spring's arrival after winter'scold months of hibernation. "One dish that I always gravitate toward in the springtime is grilled red snapper with Asian spices or Asian slaw with German or Austrian riesling," he says. "German rieslings will often have a few grams of sugar per liter, which can help temper some of the heat from Asian spices, while the citrus flavors and body can match that of the fish." His company Üllo, founded by chemist and inventor James Kornacki, offers wine purifiers that remove sulfites.
Grillo + Lobster Roll
Hailing from Sicily, grillo is a perfect wine for spring, according to Cantine Ermes winemaker Giuseppe Clementi. "Because its bouquet is very intense, it reminds of blossom and white flowers, grapefruit, and citrus fruit notes," he says. "It is a 'son' of the sun: fresh and mineral, born in Sicily, a land where grapes reach a wonderful maturation." He recommends pairing it with spaghetti allo scoglio (seafood spaghetti) or a lobster roll. "The freshness of the wine lightens the dish and 'degreases' the palate from the mayonnaise, enhancing the flavor of the lobster and the freshness of the salad."
Bordeaux Blend + Oyster Mushrooms
While cabernet sauvignon might not seem like the obvious choice for springtime pairings, Hamel Family Wines managing director John Hamel thinks it deserves a seat at the table. "Our inviting 2017 Isthmus Bordeaux Blend, with fresh red and black fruits over lifted notes of fresh herb, flowers, and spice, is a versatile companion for the spring season," he notes. The winery employs biodynamic practices and dry farming, all in an effort to allow the nuances of their Sonoma County terroir to be expressed in the wine. "[We recommend] pairing it with oyster mushrooms on a 16-month Comte cheese tart."
Rosé + Simple Fish Dishes
Out East co-founders Patrick Mitchell and Cori Lee Seaberg lean on rosé for spring pairings. "With spring around the corner, rosé is a perfect wine to pair with light and simple fish dishes, from a grilled Chilean sea bass with lemon, garlic, and olive oil to poached salmon with a teriyaki glaze," Mitchell says. "A full-bodied yet subtly smooth rosé with soft, aromatic florals and subtle hints of fruit will bring out your favorite flavors and create a memorable and healthy meal," Seaberg adds. Their Provençal rosé offers aromas of peach, melon, and wild strawberry lifted by hints of white flowers, rose petals, and baking spices.
Côtes du Rhône Rosé + Samosas
"With Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (May) in mind, spring forward with samosas and Côtes du Rhône rosé—a brilliant pairing," sommelier and restaurateur Alpana Singh says. "A grenache-dominant Côtes du Rhône rosé will have spice notes that really echo the cumin, coriander, and other spices used in samosas and across Indian cuisine. The acidity of the wine also provides a fresh foil for the crispy crust."
Chardonnay + Halibut
Maggie Harrison, the founder and winemaker at Antica Terra, is pairing her Aurata Chardonnay with sea-forward dishes this spring. "Something lovely from the ocean basted in butter with toasted nuts," she says. "In spring, black cod or sable fish, pacific halibut, rock fish, or Dungeness crab all play off the golden notes in Aurata, and neither fish nor wine overpower the delicate flavors in the other."
Pinot Noir + Strawberries
Sometimes a simple wine-and-fruit pairing is all you need for a sunny spring weekend. J Vineyards & Winery executive chef Carl Shelton pairs fresh strawberries with wines like pinot gris, blanc de noirs, and rosé because they match the flavors, brightness, and lift of their wine. "You can also pair strawberries with our Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, where I like to concentrate the flavor of the strawberries and highlight the wine's red fruit layers by roasting, stewing, or even using dried strawberries in the dish."
Chardonnay + Soba Noodles
Far Niente winemaker Nicole Marchesi is celebrating the warmer weather in Napa Valley with a chardonnay and fresh salad pairing. "I particularly look for chardonnay that has a silky or oily texture and a full palate that goes well with food," she says. "Last year I discovered Yotam Ottolenghi's vegetarian cookbook, Plenty. My absolute favorite salad is his soba noodles with eggplant and mango." Marchesi adds that this fresh, bright dish draws out the floral and nutty top notes, layered melon flavors, and tropical undertones in their chardonnay.
Sangiovese + Pork Ribs with Rosemary
What's more pleasant than a sunny spring day with a backyard barbecue? Giovan Battista Basile, the owner of Basile Winery and president of Montecucco Consortium, is ready to fire up the grill. "Our Cartacanta Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG will be the perfect match for a grilled steak or pork ribs with rosemary thanks to its vibrant acidity, medium to full body, and smooth tannins that cut through the fat and cleanse the palate," he says. "Located in the southern part of Tuscany, in the Maremma subregion, Montecucco is today considered a rising star of Tuscan wine, and with 70 percent of the production made with organic farming, Montecucco wines are some of the purest and most elegant versions of Sangiovese." Expect aromas of dark fruits, tobacco, and vanilla.
California Sauvignon Blanc + Poached Halibut with Spring Peas
While you may associate sauvignon blanc with regions like New Zealand and Sancerre, secretary of The United Sommelier Foundation Jon McDaniel advises to also consider the West. "I love to pair some of the great California sauv blancs with spring vegetables," he says. "One of my favorites is Chalk Hill, as it has a stunning balance of the bright acidity, zippy notes, but also sees a little oak, so it has nice weight and body for food. Pair this wine with spring green salads or richer fish dishes like poached halibut with spring peas."
Viognier + Asparagus
As mentioned earlier, asparagus is a notoriously difficult vegetable to pair with wine, but Rachel Haggstrom, who is the executive chef of The Restaurant at Justin Vineyards & Winery, has an idea. "Asparagus is the epitome of spring. It begins sprouting around the same time as the spring flowers and is a welcome sign that winter is over," she says. One of the restaurant's dishes incorporates estate-grown asparagus with eggs and caviar, and the suggested wine pairing is the vineyard's viognier.
"The Justin Viognier is a dry, full-bodied white wine with hints of Meyer lemon, which highlights the citrus we use in the dish and balances the egg and salinity of the caviar." If you really want to put your kitchen skills to the test, follow her lead and add texture to the dish with a flaxseed and almond tulip for garnish, followed up by a buttered citrus sauce and creamy puree with almonds to bring the dish and wine together.