When winter arrives, I actually get giddy about hanging around the house more, cooking richer foods, baking with things like pumpkin, and enjoying wines that aren’t as fabulous when the weather is hot. I think one of the greatest feelings of winter is cuddling up by a crackling fire and sipping on a smooth red wine. That’s when those stemless wine glasses I love so much come in handy!
If you’re just drinking Cabernet Sauvignon and thinking you’ve got the best out there for a winter red wine, well I’m sorry to say but you are missing out on other interesting varietals. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy a Cab produced in the “old school” Napa style. “Old school” refers to the way Cab was made in the 70’s and 80’s, before so many wineries started chasing scores, raising prices, and making them sugary and high in alcohol.
Syrah is so overlooked it almost makes me want to bring a bottle to every party I attend. It pairs way better with various foods than Cabernet Sauvignon, and you can often find it blended with other Rhône varietals for cheap!
2015 Jean-Louis Chave, Côtes du Rhône ‘Mon Coeur’ – $19.99
2016 Georges Vernay ‘Fleur de Mai,’ Vins de Pays – $24.99
2015 Beckmen Estate ‘Purisma Mountain Vineyard,’ Ballard Canyon – $29.99
2. Cabernet Franc
Not at all to be confused with Cabernet Sauvignon because Cab Franc is entirely different. Cabernet Franc is best from the Loire Valley, especially in the region of Chinon. I absolutely love the aromatics and texture this grape obtains in the Loire, but California is definitely doing the grape justice!
2014 Domaine de Beauséjour, Chinon – $15.99
2010 Pascal Lambert, Chinon ‘Graves’ – $19.99
2015 I Brand & Family ‘Bayly Vineyard,’ Paicines – $29.99
3. Nerello Mascalese
I’ve mentioned before the rise in popularity of this Sicilian grape. I think the reason being is it’s versatility; it’s much like Pinot Noir except I like to say it has an added spiciness much like Sicilians!
2015 Emanuele Scammacca del Murgo, Etna Rosso – $16.99
2014 La Vigne de Eli, Etna Rosso – $23.99
2015 Pietradolce ‘Archineri,’ Etna Rosso – $35.99
Zins have been losing steam over the past few years and my guess is because so many were becoming difficult to drink. Many producers were pushing the limits with alcohol %’s and reaching almost dessert wine alcohol levels. The wines were totally unbalanced. Zinfandel is an important category with a lot of history in California. Fortunately there are some classic style producers to look out for. Zinfandel is a terrific winter wine because it is bold, spicy, and packed with juiciness to pair with a lot of those cozier cuisines. If you’re on a bit of a budget, check out it’s Italian counterpart, Primitivo.
2015 A Mano Primitivo, Puglia – $10.99
2015 Valravn ‘Old Vine,’ Zinfandel, Sonoma County – $18.99
2014 Hendry ‘Block 7 & 22,’ Zinfandel, Napa Valley – $37.99
Monastrell is one of my favorite red varietals from Spain. In France, California, and Washington it’s known as Mourvèdre, but I personally find the style in Spain to be rich and full of tannins making it a perfect winter sipper (not to mention very inexpensive). Monastrell is grown throughout Spain, but it is most popular in the regions of Jumilla and Yecla.
2015 Bodegas Castaño ‘Hécula,’ Yecla – $12.99
2016 Altamente, Jumilla – $13.99
2014 Demetria Estate ‘Agno’ Mourvèdre, Santa Ynez Valley – $47.99