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Wines for the Weekend Gardener

What a truly beautiful weekend we've just had! There is nothing like a few days of rain to bring out the freshness in the air, perk up the spring flowers, and keep our hills green a bit longer. I spent a delightful day in the garden on Saturday, and I can vouch that this week's wines are perfect for rounding out an afternoon of picking, pruning, and pottering in your backyard.

First, after spending several hours under the sun and feeling a tad parched, I decided to pop open a Cremant d'Alsace from the brilliant Schmitt family in the Alsace region of northeast France. As I think we have mentioned before, Cremant is a sparkling wine made in the Champagne style but not in Champagne. It can be hit or miss, but this one is a bullseye!

From steeply sloping vineyards of gravelly limestone, this glass of delight is made from three grapes: Pinot Auxerois, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Noir. Pinot Blanc is just a hog for minerals, which is what you find in so many Alsatian wines, but the Pinot Auxerois gives the wine an incredible laser-like fruit over the limestone that is filled with notes of yellow cherries. Finally, the Pinot Noir comes along and wraps everything up in a sexy hug. This wine is so refreshing, it is like an oasis in a desert. I could serve it without blinking even if the Queen was coming to tea.

Later that evening, after putting away my gloves and trowel, I decided to cook up a rack of lamb to satisfy a hearty appetite earned from many laps up and down the garden steps carrying bags of soil and compost. That's when I opened a wonderful Beaujolais from the famed 'Moulin-à-Vent' Cru, an area often referred to as ‘The Lord of Beaujolais’ because the wines have an incredible bouquet and great ability to age. Domaine Les Gryphées Moulin-a-Vent 2020 ($28)

Unlike all the other Beaujolais crus, this one is named not for the village, but for the 300-year-old windmill that stands guard on the hill. The 'Moulin-à-Vent' area has distinct pink granite soil with manganese, which imparts a minerally nose layered with ripe black currents. The first inhale just clears out the cobwebs and prepares you to taste the spicy black cherries on the mouth. This wine has the depth and backbone to pair with so many foods, and will hold its own when it comes to spices. If there ever was a wine to go with chili, this is it. Paella or chorizo sausages, rich will heat and flavor, will also come to life. And, of course, lamb in any form.

Quick public service announcement: For those of you who did not grab some of the Musella Amarone, do treat yourself. It is magnificent and worth splurging for.

I am reporting from Singapore this week, not a known place for growing wine but one where drinking wine and eating is a national pastime. My plan is to do an exhaustive exploration of the wines that go well with Asian food. Stay tuned!

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