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Wines for Outdoor Dining

Hello! I hope you have been enjoying the beautiful weather we've been having here in Southern California these past few weeks. 

As the weather turns nicer, we can take advantage of the great outdoors. And what better way than to invite some friends over for some alfresco dining and to share some wonderful wines?

Start your afternoon off with a nice, crisp Pinot Grigio from the Italian wine house of Zenato.

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This is a very fragrant Pinot Grigio, bursting with full fruit aromas of green apples, white peaches and more than a hint of lime. The palate is crisp and light, but very flavorful. Bright notes of ripe green apple and a smooth finish of key lime make this a great wine to enjoy alone or with light snacks. You can even add this wine to a fruit salad of melons, strawberries, raspberries and kiwi fruit. If you're lounging poolside, try it as a wine spritzer by adding some club soda, or 7-Up if you're at the beach to get that wine cooler experience.

Price range: $7-$10

For a white wine with a little more body, try the Rare Lots 'Carneros' Chardonnay (No. 2).

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Sourced from exceptional grapes, the folks at Rare Lots select only the best blocks at renowned vineyards to make their wines. This Carneros bottling is a prime example. On the nose you get the full fruit aromas of ripe yellow apples one would expect from a Carneros Chardonnay. Hints of mango and some vanilla (from the short time this wine spends on oak) are also detectable. On the palate, this wine is silky smooth, with ample amounts of yellow apples and yellow pears. It has a lasting finish with just a slight taste of vanilla. Pair this with salads and light dishes ranging from deli sandwiches to grilled chicken to seafood.

Price range: $12-$17

Not a white wine drinker? Don't worry, I have a few selections of delicious red wines for you.

Up next is the single varietal offering of Cabernet Franc from Stateland Cellars.

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Cab Franc (as its best known), is the great-grandaddy grape of several red varietals, most popularly, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Cab Franc is a black grape that produces a medium-bodied wine, and depending where it is grown can yield vastly different fruit notes. 

Stateland's Cab Franc hails from California's Sonoma County. The warm days and cool nights in Sonoma produce a wine that is nicely balanced—not too acidic and not too tannic. On the nose, you will notice red fruits such as ripe strawberries, red plums and black raspberry. The palate reveals the craftsmanship of the winemaker, with supple notes of plum, raspberry and a hint of roasted red bell pepper. It is easy to see why this wine is starting to gain popularity as a stand-alone wine, rather than just being used as a blending grape. Pair this with cheese and crackers, pastrami sandwiches, grilled burgers, seared ahi tuna salads, or a with tender, grilled top sirloin.

Price range: $10-$15

Our last wine for this week is a treat from the always exemplary offerings of Silverado Vineyards. This time I chose the Mt. George Merlot from their Coombsville vineyard.

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Once this wine has had a few minutes to open up, soft notes of plums, violets, blueberries and a hint of clove spice waft from the glass. The palate rewards you with full, round tannins with blueberries and plums. The finish is silky smooth and medium to medium long with just a hint of oak spice. This is the perfect wine to pair with lamb—anything else would be a waste of this wine's pedigree. A classic Bordeaux style Merlot, but with a bit more flavor and body.

Price range: $20-$26

I know you will enjoy all of this week's wine picks. Stay tuned for some more great springtime wines.

 Update: Corks vs Screw Caps

I am still compiling data on this touchy subject. I hope to have the article ready by mid-April.

Cheers! Come back next week for more reviews!