Much of the country is enduring late seasonal snow and sleet at present, though some fortunate climes are enjoying the earliest signs of irrepressible spring. For those on the chillier end of this stick, think of spring as nature's vengeance against winter - the birds and trees and grass and streams all share our fatigue with frost and biting cold. In this moment, nature and its inhabitants are briefly, if fleetingly, united in spirit. You might not be able to taste it just yet, but spring's riot of exploding life is coming. Just listen to the birds at dawn; cheerleaders for the cause.
In this, the tipping point of seasons, we, too, go through not-so-subtle changes. Drawer contents are swapped out, we start sucking in our guts in dreadful anticipation of pool season, and our palates salivate for the tenderness of the year's first bounty. Breathing becomes deliberate and meaningful. What to drink in this shoulder moment? Perhaps something which embodies the pent -up energy of possibility kineticizing around us.
Though lamentably unpopular in the US, Merlot embodies this ideal. Full of verve and unapologetic life, it's a grape that delivers fruit the way a Golden Retriever delivers a ball - with enthusiasm and often spastic energy. Taken at face value, it can be a light-hearted pleasure. Taken seriously - and given the right treatment - Merlot can be a faith-restoring wine. Sitting someplace between these two ends of the pendulum is the readily available...
2010 Ghost Pines Merlot Sonoma/Napa $20
Inviting, medium-bodied, and as easy going as your long time next door neighbor. With enough traction and acid to keep things food friendly, it doesn't so much as confront as sneak up on you. One of the sweethearts of grocery stores' selections. Look out for it on sales closer to $14.