Winter Warmer WinesDecember 26, 2018
Winter is officially here and sometimes you need more than a warm blanket and a cozy fire to satisfy your soul. This is where a glass of really, REALLY good red wine comes in handy. Not just your ordinary, average, every day sipper, but one that gives you that warm and fuzzy feeling inside and makes you stop to actually think about the wine because it’s just that delicious. Advanced Sommelier Jenny Benzie highlights what should be on your winter drinking list this winter and the benefits of keeping warm with each of them.
Winter may not be the best time to travel to the vineyards of Europe, but it is a great time to either reminisce about the trip you took to Italy last fall during truffle season (!) or plan an upcoming biking trek through the vineyards of Tuscany for the ultimate wine vacation next year. In the region of Montalcino, the name Brunello is synonymous with some of the best-known, and most expensive, wines from Italy. Enter Capanna Brunello di Montalcino, which has all the pedigree of a first growth wine (if there was such a thing in Italy) without the uber-hefty price tag.
Capanna is considered a micro-estate, in which they are a small producer, dedicated to farming and vinifying the classic Sangiovese Grosso grape variety of the region.
The winery is located in the picturesque area of Montosoli. The Cencioni family has been producing wine here before Brunello di Montalcino was even granted their official government regulated Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) orestatus. The wine is made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso (it’s just the name of a clone of the grape, not a different grape than Sangiovese altogether) and aged in used large Slavonian casks for about three years before being bottled, aged more in the bottle, then released. You are greeted with a warm bouquet of soft red fruits, vanilla and earthiness, followed by moderate acidity, slightly gritty tannins and lots of structure. They also make a Riserva wine and large formats, which are rare and hard to get these days.
Pair with: a crackling warm fire, delicious hard cheeses and a tranquil, quiet night alone
Pinot noir is a finicky grape. It is thin-skinned, meaning it typically doesn’t have as much tannin, color or structure as other red wines, and doesn’t grow well in warm climates. But these are all advantages of such a lovely grape in that they create wines ripe with acidity and elegance that make this the perfect dancing partner. Not too aggressive in the lead, but also doesn’t leave you waiting for something that you can’t quite explain, yet never get in your relationship with wine.
Following the family-farming theme, Bergström Pinot Noir “Cumberland Reserve,” Willamette Valley is the perfect pick for those who are looking for a heartier, winter style Pinot Noir.Dr. John Bergström began this project in the bucolic hills of Oregon as a way to reconnect with his agricultural roots. His son Josh received a post-graduate degree from Viticulture and Enology in the Burgundy region in France. He returned home with his then fiancée (now wife) to harvest their first vintage and begin what is now Bergström Wines. This particular Pinot Noir showcases aromas and flavors of bing cherries, cranberries, with a bit of spice and earthy characteristics that add to the depth and dimension of this wine.
It is not for someone who is looking for something light or low in tannin. The palate is rich and opulent as it fills your mouth (and belly) with a warm afterglow.
Pair with: seared duck breast, bacon laden brussel sprouts and sweet potato mash
While most people think about wine in the sense of opening it, pouring it, and drinking it, it all begins as a farm product. Farm life is much different than city living, instilling in you a deep respect for the love of the land, the process it takes to reap what you sow, and the people around you who help make the magic all happen. A commitment to sustainable vineyard practices and gentle winemaking techniques not only leads to quality wine, but also taking care of Mother Earth.
Paul Hobbs, whose winery is located in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County, hails from a line of sustainable farmers. Raised in New York state on an apple orchard, he used to taste different varieties of apples that had been grown in different orchards to assess their characteristics. CrossBarn Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley is named in homage to the “cross barn” that was ever present in his upbringing on his family’s farm. With CrossBarn, Paul ventures beyond his own vineyards sourced for his eponymous wine label to bring you wines of stunning quality and exceptional value, at a much lower price. This wine is quite the robust blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot, and 2% Malbec. It offers vivid aromas of blackberry, red currant, mocha and cigar box. The layered palate in complex, with fine grain tannins, rich black cherry fruits and a superb, long-lasting finish. Not for the faint at heart, indeed.
Pair with: dark chocolate cake, cinnamon buns, or a thriller movie
The label of this bottle makes you think it is a white wine with the word Blanc predominately displayed on it. Story has it that the name of the wine was inspired by the surnames of two grape growers (Mr. Blanc and Mr. Galet) from whom the winemaker purchased the grapes. It doesn’t help that the label has a bunch of white rock-looking formations on it either, making you think that the picture is of the terroir from the vineyard. Alas, it is most definitely red juice inside the bottle.
François Villard, a repeat luminary at the Nantucket Wine Fest, began his career in the restaurant industry as a Sommelier. He later turned Winemaker, thanks to the help of his good friend who was already a winemaker in the region, Yves Cuilleron. François Villard Côte Rotie “Le Gallet Blanc” hails from a blend of top quality vineyards located in the Northern Rhône Valley of France. This inky, purple-hued monster is made from 100% Syrah. You will smell violets, plum, bacon fat, herbs, and smoky tannins. It is recommended to decant this wine at least one or two hours before consumption. This wine is way more affordable than most wines from this region, and its excellent quality will have you coming back for more.
Pair with: roasted lamb, mixed berry pie, and an evening among friends
Now that you have your checklist of winter wines ready, it’s time to squirrel away those bottles so that you easily have them on hand for winter consumption when schools are closed, the roads are icy and you are hunkered down for the storm. Stay cozy and warm, one sip at a time, as you keep your home fires burning.