Long Island wine picks to pair with spring produce

Long Island wine spring picks

Our spring wine picks pose for a photo at Palmer Vineyards in Riverhead. (Credit: David Benthal)

As the snow melts and the weather warms, we all start thinking about the early spring bounty Long Island has in store for us. From leafy greens like the season’s first spinach to crunchier vegetables like radishes and asparagus to the first ramps and garlic scapes that shoot from the ground, we’re soon going to have a wide array of local produce to eat. 

This is good news for locavores suffering from potato and winter squash fatigue.

But these foods do present a bit of a challenge when it comes to wine pairing. Their bitter or, in some cases, sharp flavors can be problematic with certain varieties of wine. Don’t worry, though; here are some general guidelines that can help, along with local wines that are ideally suited for enjoyment with spring foods. As they say, if it grows together, it goes together.

First, you’ll want wines with fresh acidity, rather than flabby heavy ones — though that’s true with most any food. That lemon you squirt on steamed asparagus or the herby vinaigrette you drizzle on fresh greens? That’s because you want that pop of acidity. The right wines can do the same thing.

Next, make sure you avoid wines with bitter or astringent qualities. Many spring vegetables have a bitterness to them and sometimes it’s quite pronounced. You don’t want to add bitter on top of bitter. This eliminates most red wines and some whites — like dry gewürztraminer or oaky chardonnay — from the equation. Fruity wines, maybe even with a subtle sweetness (but don’t forget the acidity) work far better.

Last but not least, think about wines that have “green” flavors. No, not the bell pepper-flavored red wines so common in Long Island’s past. Those wines were made from underripe grapes and didn’t taste good with much of anything. Thankfully, they are exceedingly rare nowadays. I’m talking about wines with subtle notes of thyme, mint or grass. Those flavors accent the sweetness of local vegetables and match their vegetal characteristics.

With those guidelines in place, we have several local options to consider.

Sauvignon Blanc

This is probably the go-to wine for Long Island’s spring bounty — almost regardless of preparation. It checks all the boxes — fruity, crisp and herb-tinged — and a lot of producers are making good ones today. Top producers to look for include Macari Vineyards, Paumanok Vineyards, Anthony Nappa Wines and Channing Daughters Winery.

Dry Rosé

Yeah, dry rosé is having its moment, but there’s a reason for that. Again, the best are fresh and fruity, with nice acidity and a bit more body than many whites. With vegetables — regardless of season — look for rosé with at least a little cabernet franc in the mix. Cab franc brings that earthy, herbal nuance. Check out examples from Bridge Lane Wine, Bedell Cellars, Kontokosta, Jamesport Vineyards and Hound’s Tree.

Other Stainless Steel Whites

Sauvignon blanc is far from the only white wine that shines with these foods. Paumanok’s Chenin Blanc is another good pick. So is One Woman’s Gruner Veltliner or Palmer’s Albariño.

Just about every local winery makes an unoaked chardonnay these days. Those with the brightest acidity are also really delicious with vegetable-based cuisine. Roanoke Vineyards and Pellegrini make fine examples.

There’s also richer, even buttery chardonnay. OK, so maybe this category doesn’t align 100 percent with our guidelines, but if you love your fresh peas slathered in butter, a buttery — but still brisk — chardonnay can be a beautiful pairing, maybe with a roast chicken and some mashed potatoes. Wölffer’s Perle is always a favorite in this style.