Every year for Mother’s Day, I ask for the same thing—to be left the hell alone while I drink my favorite wine. My wish is usually granted for about an hour, but it’s a blissful hour during which my wonderful husband silences our sweet children’s unbelievable ability to say “Mommy!” 800 times in two minutes.
My wine of choice for this quiet hour is always the same: Premier Cru Chablis. I close my eyes, stick my nose in the glass, and inhale deeply. I force myself to be present and take in all the layers of aromas—Meyer lemons, ripe Bosc pears lightly dusted with sea salt, and that beautiful smell that happens right after the rain when the concrete is wet and giving off that chalky, minerally scent. Yes, that is my happy place.
But this Mother’s Day is going to be different. I have vowed to break tradition and not only spend the whole day with the family; I’m also going to sip on something other than Chablis.
Over the course of the last few months, I’ve experienced some pretty mind-blowing wines—crisp whites, savory reds and luscious bubbles, all from far-off, remote places, that are truly transportive. A veritable journey in the glass. So, if you’re like me and want to spend a certain Sunday in May indulging in exciting new wine finds, consider this your go-to shopping list.
Slovenia has been a treasure trove of undiscovered grapes and wines. In fact, one of the most dangerous wines I’ve ever tasted is called Halozan, from a winery called Pullus. It’s a blend of several different white grapes such as dry riesling, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and pinot blanc, with the ever-exciting indigenous varietal called furmint. Why is this wine dangerous, you ask? It’s a one-liter bottle, and once you open it, you just cannot stop drinking! It’s bright and refreshing, with notes of apples, pears and citrus fruits, with a subtle hint of white flowers. I can imagine myself drinking this while floating in the pool and being fed some sort of skewered meat.
I was intrigued by Slovenian furmint and wanted to know what a wine made from 100 percent of this varietal tasted like. Then, I found it—Kobal winery located in Ptuj, Slovenia, makes a beautiful white from 100 percent furmint, or as they call it locally, Sipon. Just as sauvignon blanc is to Sancerre, and cabernet is to Napa, Sipon is the very heart of Slovenian wine. The Kobal is made in a dry style with the most gorgeous notes of key limes, sweet smoke and juicy red grapefruit. It’s undeniably mouth-watering and just begs for warm weather and a cheese plate.
Not to be outdone, the Italians located in the riviera known as Liguria, in the northwestern part of the country, have perfected wines made from the obscure little Lumassina grape. One producer in particular, Punta Crena, takes great pride in focusing on one-of-a-kind grapes with little to no exposure outside of their village. Their take on the delicate Lumassina grape translates to a wine with a gentle flowery note, low alcohol and a barely there fizz on your palate. All I can think about while sipping this is a huge plate of fried calamari and my toes in the sand.
Even though the weather is warming up (Did we have a spring? Did I miss it?), sometimes a glass of red wine just hits the spot—but I personally can’t stomach the idea of a huge fruit bomb in sweltering temperatures. I look for light-bodied reds, with zippy and crunchy red fruit flavors, low alcohol and refreshing acidity. To satiate my red wine urges this time of year, I found a layered and complex wine from Greece called Limniona. Bursting with ripe strawberries, licorice and fresh herbs, this ancient varietal was saved from certain extinction by Christos Zafeirakis. He’s a fourth-generation winemaker, and the family estate is nestled up against Mount Olympus in Thessaly, where the volcanic soil adds a minerality to this wine that is electric. I suggest chilling it down just a touch, then savoring the ever-evolving flavors that will hit your palate like an iron fist in a silk glove.
Finally, there’s nothing like ending a day with a glass of bubbles … or starting the day with a glass of bubbles. Or having bubbles all day. So if sparkling wine gets your motor revved like it does mine, and you want to treat yourself (because remember—you deserve it), then there’s nothing better than Champagne Special Club. This elite category of Champagne needs to have an entire article dedicated to it, but for now, just know that Special Club is rare, and the level of quality control and care that goes into each bottle is palpable. These are wines made by the actual grape-growers themselves—a rare thing indeed in Champagne, where most grapes are purchased by the huge Champagne houses in order for them to mass-produce the labels we have come to recognize in grocery stores around the country. Special Club can only be produced in declared vintage years, but beyond that, they must be excellent vintage years with unparalleled conditions. In addition, in order to receive this prestigious designation, the wine must pass two blind tastings made up of a jury of wine professionals. To date, there are only 28 Special Club Champagnes available. I think you get the idea … this bottle of bubs is a really big deal. Recently, I had the distinct privilege of tasting the 2014 Hervieux-Dumez Brut from Sacy. The bubbles were so delicate and precise that it looked like there was diamond dust floating in the glass. They were the tiniest yet most precise bubbles I’d ever seen. Don Ho would be proud. And the taste? Like lightning coated in honey. To say it was “like whoa” would be a tragic understatement.
This is my recommended lineup for yourself, your queen, your mama, your best friend or your gam-gam. But no matter what you drink, raise a glass in celebration, remembrance or love for the strong women in your life.
And maybe give them an hour of quiet time.