Cozy Up For Winter With These 7 Hearty Wines

Food & Drink

The weather outside is often frightful, but winter wine is so delightful. From full-bodied, comforting reds to an “almost red” to drink with a chill, as well as versatile winter white, here are 7 wines to uncork and cozy up to in the chillier months. 

Silk & Spice Red Blend (Sogrape Vinhos) 2018

The name and flavor profile of this Portuguese wine is inspired by the 15th century spice route from the country’s ports. This Touriga Nacional and Baga blend bursts with jammy dark berry fruit, vanilla and baking spices on the palate with a hint of earthy espresso in the finish for balance. This versatile, weekday wine would be perfect for cozy movie nights in to sip with creamy, rich cheeses and charcuterie, as well as roasted/braised meats or meaty fish with winter citrus sauces (orange chicken, tangerine honey salmon, etc.). I also think this would be terrific with a slight chill (20 minutes) to go with Thai or Chinese takeout. $14 

Primus Carménère 2018

Carménère is a grape synonymous with survival, having once been prevalent in France and lost to the 19th century Phylloxera scourge, the grape thrives again in Chile (it’s a much longer story involving misidentification as Merlot, but that deserves its own article). I think more carménère should be sipped as we take on 2021! This one comes from organically-grown grapes harvested in 2018—a good year in the Apalta subregion of Colchagua, Chile with balanced rainfall, warm sunshine and cool evenings. Twelve months in French oak (18% new) give it just the right amount of toast as it blankets the palate with ripe plum and blueberry fruits, and a hint of pepper and tobacco in the finish. $19

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Château Lassègue Saint-Émilion Grand Cru 2017

Made by the Seillan family at a 18th century Côte de Saint-Émilion estate comes this luscious, velvety Bordeaux made from Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown on southwest-facing hillside vineyards. The tannins on this wine are present, but pillowy soft, giving just the right amount of edge to dark cherry, blackberry and strawberry fruits with a hint of thyme and violet. This wine makes me wish I had a fireplace to cozy up to as I sip it, but works pretty well next to a heat lamp for an outdoor grilled burger or lamb chops! $60

Hess Select Pinot Gris 2019

Just as I sometimes drink red wine in summer, a white must be on the winter menu too. I love a crisp, aromatic pinot gris from Alsace with winter fare like fish stews and grilled cheese. However, for a style with a bit more concentrated fruit (pear and peach) and a fuller-bodied texture that still manages to be zippy enough to cut through a spicy, creamy curry or butternut squash soup, pinot gris grown in warmer climes does the trick. The Hess family has produced well-structured red wines and chardonnays in the Napa Valley since the 1970s, and this wallet-friendly PG showcases their winemaking dexterity with more delicate white varietals. $13 

Finca Toremilanos Ojo de Gallo 2019

And now for something completely funky! As much as I love a hearty red in winter, with eyes on the prize toward a spring thaw, I sometimes crave something with the deeper tannins of a red that drinks more like a rosé. Hailing from the Spanish region of Ribero del Duero, Ojo de Gallo (Castellano for “rooster eye”), this dark pink, biodynamic wonder in the region’s historic clarete style awakens the palate with juicy berry flavors. But because this field blend of native Tempranillo, Garnacha, Bobal, Monastrell, Viura, Albillo and Malvasia is co-fermented in cement barrels and then aged 8 months in wood, it also presents chocolaty, earthy tones, even with a full chill. It’s bottled unfiltered, without added sulfur. Like some of the best things in life, it’s weird, but great. And it’s fabulous with pizza. $28 

Mark Ryan Water Witch 2017

This red blend consists of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot planted at Quintessence Vineyard on a south-facing slope high on Washington State’s Red Mountain. It’s aged 21 months (80% new French oak), which gives it a warming, mellow texture. Admittedly, I chose the wine based on name alone, since we all need a bit of magic these days (the name honors Ryan’s grandfather, who was an agricultural water locator). Tough choice with so many great WA state wines. (I’m also a big fan of syrahs from Yakima’s Cote Bonneville, and Walla Walla wines from Force Majeure, Buty, Dama and L’Ecole No. 41.) However, the deep, soothing flavors were no illusion with a dinner of pan-roasted duck breast. $60 

Tenuta Sant’Antonio Amarone Della Valpolicella Campo dei Gigli 2015

To me, winter is a test of patience, and Amarone, the jewel of Italy’s Valpolicella region, is all about rewarding patience. Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Croatina and Oseleta grapes are selected from Campo dei Gigli (“field of lilies” in English), the estate’s most prized vineyard. Instead of immediate pressing, grapes are dried for at least 3 months on palettes before the precious juice is released. In this example from Famiglia Castagnedi, the deep purple extract manages to capture the lingering freshness of dark fruits, while adding dense flavors of dried dates, prunes, raisins and dark chocolate with thyme, rosemary and violet aromatics and a hint of balsamic vinegar. Sip this with baked ziti recipe, roasted meats or osso bucco. $73

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