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Spring Wines Promise Hopeful Sipping

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Winter weary wine lovers, ever ready for great bottles and spring flowers, will toast with joy to this first week of spring.

Thigh-high snow still cloaks our neighborhood and the forecast points south of zero for the weekend, but the vernal equinox calls for simply good, sunny wines today, and for the warming months ahead.

Wines overlooked in the bracing days of mid-winter appeal like friends we haven't seen for months. The stout reds which comforted like a roaring fire will soon rest in dark corners of the wine room.

Any of the following wines, at everyday price levels to suit most wallets, will hail spring as crisply as the Robin's call on a bright March morning.

Domaine de La Quilla Muscadet Sevre et Maine -- Muscadet has been getting increasing attention in the wine press for good reasons. The wines are no longer secrets for value hunters. An estate like de La Quilla (Robert Kacher Selections) showcases the bright profile of Melon de Bourgogne, grown and made by the Vinet brothers on the far western section of Loire Valley near Nantes in northwest France. If you've never tried the grape, this is as good a place to start as any. This mineral-tinged Muscadet is made sur lie, so the resulting impression is of slightly more body and richness than that of Muscadet made without extended lees contact. Terrific as an aperitif and a must-try with oysters and other shellfish. $9-13.00 nationally.

Yalumba Y Unwooded Chardonnay -- Spring white doesn't need to be complicated. There's a place in many refrigerators for fresh, inexpensive, well-done Aussie Chardonnay and Yalumba winery (Negociants) does a lot of things very well, including this perennially reliable expression from South Australia. The style is more European than Californian, but with enough weight and ripeness to avoid a harsh impression. The wine has admirable fruit for the price. $9-12.00 nationally.

Terredora di Paolo Rosaenovae Irpania -- Located in Campania, Italy's Terredora winery (Vias Wines) is well-known for using Greco and Aglianico, grapes wine historians speculate may have roots in ancient Greece. This rose -- rosato in Italy -- is pure Aglianico, moderately ripe, but with a savory mouthfeel and flavor profile more substantial than the delicate roses from southern France we'll soon enjoy over summer. It feels just right on a cool spring night, standing up superbly to grilled fish like Lake Trout or Salmon. $12.50-14.00 nationally.

Domaine Gournier Merlot -- This great value estate -- located in Provence between Avignon and Nimes in southern France -- grows grapes and makes solid, cheerful wines at everyday spring prices. The owner Maurice Barnouln, happens also to be a pepinierist, selling vines to other grape growers in France. Gournier wines (Robert Kacher Selections) have been archetypes from the region for decades and rely on frank, fun-to-drink fruit you can easily gulp down by the case. $9-11.50 nationally.

Ross Andrew Glaze Cabernet Sauvignon -- Some folks simply like to drink their favorite grapes year round, no matter the weather or season. The cherry-tinged profile of this Washington Cabernet meshes with spring and summer, and the addition of 25 percent Merlot gives the blend an endearing liveliness and versatility. A terrific value from some pretty serious vineyard sourcing. Ross Andrew's other wines are also well worth seeking out. About $15.00 nationally.

Paul Durdilly Beaujolais -- One of a handful of estate bottled Beaujolais offerings long available in the states, Durdilly's version (Michael Skurnik Wines) stands out for the value and consistency. Beaujolais is a red well-suited to celebration and everyday quaffing. Like spring, this hand-picked wine is aromatic, energizing, and full of promise. What's not to like about that? $9-12.00 nationally.

To spring! Open the windows and let the toasts begin.