Who knows best what wines complement Mother’s Day? Women vintners are pros in this arena and share their expertise on their top sparkling and white wines with food pairings.
Prosecco has earned a place at party tables.
Paladin Prosecco DOC Rosé Brut
Every celebration deserves bubbles, and Mother’s Day is no exception. Prosecco has increased market share in the U.S. with rosé versions gaining popularity.
Francesca Paladin is the third generation of her family to work at Prosecco producer Casa Paladin in the Veneto region. Located 30 miles north of Venice, the estate is in the Lison Pramaggiore DOC appellation at the foothills of the Alps with warm breezes flowing from the Adriatic Sea. This area presents ideal conditions for growing Glera, the Prosecco grape, and attracting celebrities such as Ernest Hemingway who owned a villa nearby.
Casa Paladin, launched in 1962 by Paladin’s grandfather, now owns several other wineries in the Veneto, Lombardy, and Tuscany regions. With a broad portfolio, the group’s philosophy is balancing the 4V’s, “vite, vino, verde, vita—vine, wine, green, life (community).”
Paladin, the export and marketing manager, has early memories of working the harvest with her grandpa, siblings, and cousins. They ate bread and salami at breaks and partied at harvest’s end. Added to their feasts and Mother’s Day is a new wine: Paladin Prosecco Rosé Brut DOC.
The intriguing nose of the rosé is full-on floral. The flavor highlights wild strawberry and peach with a lively freshness. Paladin Prosecco possesses more body than most and offers fine perlage. One taster noted, “The wines dance on my tongue.”
For food pairing with rosé, charcuterie is an excellent match. Paladin recommends an avocado toast with salmon. “The perlage and acidity contrast with the fattiness of the avocado and the salmon.”
Quality sparkling wine from Italy made like Champagne—Trentodoc
Letrari Brut Riserva DOC Trentodoc
Beyond prosecco, how about the quality, reasonably priced méthode champenoise sparkling from northeast Italy labeled with the Trentodoc appellation? Grapes for Trentodoc wines are grown in the Trentino-Alto-Adige region in the valleys and foothills along the Dolomite Mountains. Trentino-Alto-Adige is gaining recognition for wines beyond Pinot Grigio.
Trentodoc, designated as a controlled appellation of the Trentino district since 1993, was trademarked in 2007 to signify the high standards of production with similar grapes and methods to Champagne. Prosecco and cava are fermented in a tank and then bottled. But with sparkling wines made in the méthode champenois, bubbles develop with a second fermentation in the bottle, which brings more complex flavors and fine perlage.
Letrari Brut Riserva Trentodoc is a prime example of Trentodoc quality. Lucia Letrari’s family began growing grapes in the 17th century. In 1976 her parents started Letrari winery. A graduate of agriculture and enology, Letrari now manages the business with about 60 acres of vineyard producing 25 varieties of wine.
Made with classic Champagne grapes Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Letrari Brut Riserva Trentodoc is aged 36 months. This aging yields aromas of toasted breadcrumbs and vanilla. The creamy-citrus mouthfeel is pure Trentodoc with grapes from hillside plantings which ripen well. If I had done a blind tasting, I might have targeted it as a mid-priced Champagne.
For a Mother’s Day food pairing, Letrari suggests porcini mushroom risotto or fried porcini with mayonnaise aioli.
Make Oregon sparkling wine top of mind.
Sokol Blosser Bluebird Cuvée Sparkling wine 2018
You may connect Willamette Valley more with Pinot Noir than sparkling wine but the area is full of vinous surprises.
As a young child, Alison Sokol Blosser learned that every party needs sparkling wine. Her family is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Sokol Blosser winery in the Dundee Hills, and they popped the cork on sparkling wine for each milestone. Alison recalls a Mother’s Day dinner her older brothers made that she served while their parents enjoyed sparkling wine.
Early pioneers of the Willamette Valley AVA appellation and organic farming, Alison’s parents Susan and Bill Sokol Blosser have gained renown for Pinot Noir and their environmental stewardship.
The addition of sparkling wine to the portfolio occurred after Alison and her brother Alex assumed leadership of the winery in 2008. With the family heritage of sparkling wine at celebrations and their own love of bubbles, winemaker Alex and marketing expert Alison launched méthode champenoise Bluebird Cuvée in 2018. The duo takes a creative approach to the base wine by blending Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, and early Muscat with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
The result is a crisp and approachable sparkling wine, full-bodied with a hint of spice. The name refers to Susan Sokol Blosser’s partnership with the Western Bluebird Recovery Project and the installation of 11 vineyard birdhouses to shelter and preserve their habitats. Also, added Susan Sokol Blosser, “The bluebirds are our insect brigade.”
As for food pairing, Alison said, “Quiche Lorraine pairs like a dream with the Bluebird Cuvée. The bright green apple, pear, and lime zest notes cut through the rich, savory notes of the Swiss cheese and bacon egg dish. My Mother’s Day wish is for my family to make it for me this year.”
A luscious Sauvignon blanc sustainably farmed and full of flavor.
Benziger North Coast Sauvignon blanc 2019
Mike Benziger, founder of Benziger winery, does not make it easy for new hires, including his niece Jamie Benziger who had to work elsewhere for five years before getting a winemaking position. Her boss is Lisa Amaroli, director of winemaking for Benziger.
Amaroli followed her own odyssey in winemaking at other wineries and Benziger before her promotion to oversee all production. She explained Benziger’s philosophy. “Mike is intense—he works and plays hard. This approach helped make Benziger a leader in organic and biodynamic farmed wine.”
Benziger Sauvignon blanc, added Amaroli, is a favorite in the portfolio. “Like our Chardonnay, the wine is approachable and not made in the style of Napa, Sonoma, or a French ‘Chateau 2X4’ to knock flavor out of the grapes. Our biodynamic grapes, sourced from alluvial soil, are treated gently in the cellar and fermented in stainless steel tanks with wild yeast.”
I liked the lemon-lime aromas, zesty mouthfeel, and warm finish. My tasters noted a cider apple nose and a good balance between acid and fruit. Amaroli noted the wine’s rare feature of being approachable to all Sauvignon blanc lovers with a balance between herbaceous and tropical styles.
Amaroli has strong Mother’s Day memories. At home, she always made Mother’s Day breakfast. Her mother, she said, “was a trooper in extolling the goodness of my gooey pancakes, over-cooked eggs, and coffee as thick as mud.”
An improved cook, Amaroli might pair the Sauvignon blanc on Mother’s Day with a goat cheese omelet, ricotta-stuffed zucchini blossoms, or scallops.
Here are three white wines that may surprise Mom.
Sauvignon blanc is as rich as a Chardonnay yet as refreshing as Pinot Grigio.
Ehlers Estate Sauvignon blanc 2020
Off of Highway 29 at the narrowest part of Napa Valley sits a stone barn built in 1886 by Bernard Ehlers, founder of an early California winery. Long neglected, the barn and nearby vineyards were purchased by Jean and Sylviane Leducq in 2001. Already owners of nearby vineyards, the Leducqs restored and reinvigorated the property which they named Ehlers Estate. Now organically and sustainably farmed, the estate is managed by winemaker Laura Díaz Muñoz.
Diaz Muñoz was born in Madrid, Spain. After studying biology and food science, she pursued a master’s degree in enology and viticulture and made wine in Spain, New Zealand, and then Napa Valley and Sonoma.
Recruited to Ehlers in 2018, Diaz Muñoz has studied the characteristics of each Ehlers vineyard block. In the cellar, she uses a mix of fermentation methods from stainless steel to concrete egg and aged French oak with extended battonage, stirring of the lees (spent yeast). All these decisions produce exceptional sauvignon blanc.
The Ehlers Estate Sauvignon blanc 2020 has a lively nose of jasmine and orange blossoms. The bottle’s textured label depicts flowers, bees, and butterflies which mirror the diverse, healthy environment of the vines and reflects the full-bodied, textural components of the wine. I labeled the wine as “juicy” and liked the unusual mix of citrus and creamy vanilla flavors.
Diaz Muñoz shared her favorite Mother’s Day food with Sauvignon blanc. “My Mama might cook a Spanish omelet with asparagus or her paella with vegetables, chicken, and seafood—we fought over the crunchy rice ‘crust’ on the pan’s bottom.”
Though the Leducqs have passed away, the winery is owned by the Leducq Foundation founded by the couple in 1996. Profits from the winery are returned to the Foundation which supports worldwide collaboration on cardiac research. “I’m making wine,” said Diaz Muñoz, “but I’m also, in a small drop by drop way, making a difference in people’s lives.”
Get to know Arneis from Piedmont.
Marchesi di Barolo Arneis DOCG 2020
To know Arneis is to explore Roero, Piedmont, in Northwest Italy. Valentina Abbona’s family has made wine there for six generations. With her brother, Abbona oversees the 500 acres the family owns across Piedmont. Marchesi di Barolo was indeed founded by the Marchesi di Barolo in 1806. The Marchesi married a French noblewoman who promoted Barolo wine and brought fame to the region. The Abbona family purchased the winery in 1929.
Abbona points out that the Roero is a rare Italian appellation that bestows the highest controlled category, DOCG for both red and white grapes. The hilly Roero is part of the Langhe region across the Tanara River from where the famous Nebbiolo-based wines, Barolo and Barbaresco, are produced.
Recognizing the quality terroir of Roero and wanting to make outstanding DOCG white wines in addition to their famed Nebbiolo wines, the Abbonas purchased Arneis vineyards in Roero. Once home to a large lake, Roero’s sandy soils impart minerality to the grapes. Arneis is known for its fresh, fragrant aromas, mild acidity, depth of flavor, and age-ability.
Abbona emphasizes the winery’s ability to craft an expressive Arneis from their three different vineyards with distinct terroirs. I liked the pear and peach nose and freshness from the acidity and minerality. Yet the battonage resulted in a full mouthfeel. One of my tasters thought it was similar to Sauvignon blanc but more complex and interesting.
As for Mother’s Day pairings with Arneis, Abbona suggests white meat. “I may prepare chicken with lemongrass and ginger or chili. The wine’s soft body will cleanse the spicy heat and highlight the freshness of lemongrass. Ceviche is also a win-win pairing.”
Abbona added, “Every day at home is Mother’s Day, especially now during the pandemic. I love dinners at home when Mom cooks—she will not let anyone help. We all sit together at the high table with small bites and a glass of wine.”
Reach for wines from Lugana in Lombardy
Carlo Zenegaglia Montefluno 2020 Trebbiano di Lugana
Here’s a white wine to remember—Trebbiano di Lugana. Elena Zenegaglia knows all about this wine. For three generations, her family has produced Trebbiano at Carlo Zenegaglia winery.
The winery is located in the Lugana DOC region south of Lake Garda in Lombardy on the border with the Veneto. Lugana vintners clarify confusion around Trebbiano—the grape is not the same as Verdicchio grown in the La Marca region. To layer on more complexity, there are 30 varieties of the Trebbiano grapes—those from Lugana are considered the most aromatic.
Lugana possesses a unique terroir with layers of white chalk and clay deposited by ancient glaciers. The influence of Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake, brings a temperate Mediterranean climate.
Carlo Zenegaglia Montefluno Trebbiano di Lugana reflects her family’s connection to the terroir. The Montefluno label displays a wave-like background mirroring the wind’s impact on the waters of Lake Garda. Montefluno is the name of a nearby castle, a common feature of the area.
With an intriguing nose of white rose, violets, and lemon, Montefluno is rich and full-bodied wine yet balanced with an acidic backbone. Some full-body wines can be flabby, but this one is elegant with a lively mouthfeel. Zenegaglia called the wine “harmonious,” and I agree. I immediately pondered food pairings for Mother’s Day. She suggested a saffron risotto or an entrée of fish or shellfish.
The vintner highlighted a favorite Mother’s Day story. “In Italy on Mother’s Day, roses are in bloom, and all the school children make a gift for Mom. My mother received five gifts from her five children every year. My mom still has some of those gifts today.”
As we toast our Mothers with special memories and good times, let us also cheer women vintners around the world who bring their sparkling and white wines to our tables for the holiday and all seasons.
Feature photo is of Sokol Blosser family. Photo credit: Sokol Blosser