Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Taking the "chill" off with Winter Wine Picks

My Splurge Pick
It seemed like a good idea when I decided to ask some of Southern California's leading wine purveyors to make some"Winter Wine" selections.  The only problem - winter has been scarce in the Southland - pretty mild up north as well.  The roads are clear around the ski resorts, there has been very little rain and we have seen more golf weather than anything else. Fortunately, the night chill is biting enough (as low as the 40', but mostly in the 50's) to remind us that it is indeed, winter.  It's fire pit weather.

I asked each wine purveyor to give me three Winter Wines - a "Value" Wine ($10 to $20) an "Under the Radar" Wine ($20 to $50) and a "Splurge" Wine (over $50).  Wine purveyors were more than happy to step up and offer their selections.

What do we mean by "Winter Wines?"  Gwendolyn Wilson Osborn of online superstore Wine.com, says that when the Wine.com crew thinks of Winter Wines, "We think of wines that are warming, wines that have good structure, but supple fruit, wines with a spicy element, whether it be sweet spices (think allspice that reminds you of Christmas) or peppery-spice. Winter wines are wines you want to sip by a fire or pair with a hearty winter meal like stew or roasts."

Wine.com (one of our sponsors) is the world's #1 online wine store.  Very service oriented - they appeal to the casual buyer as well as the most serious collector.  You can visit Wine.com by clicking on any of the large ads on this page.

Gwendolyn's picks - which include her comments (She loves the warm spice as a defining characteristic of Winter Wines).

Love the name!
Value Wine:  Glen Carlou Grand Classique ($14.99) - "Bordeaux blend from South Africa, this may be the perfect by-the-fire wine. Although it’s fantastic with roast meats or stews as well. It’s slightly aged, so all flavors are well integrated. You get rich, dark fruits and a dose of spice that makes this wine a delight to drink on its own or with food."

Under the Radar: Quinta do Crasto Douro Red Reserva Old Vines 2009 ($45.99)  "Most folks think only of Port when they think of Portugal, but the country also produces some delicious and winter-friendly red wines. This wine, made from old-vines, is rich and warm, with lots of spice and a round texture that makes it perfect for sipping in cold weather."

Splurge: d'Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz 2008 ($61.99)  "Love this wine, and the great thing is that as a splurge, it’s not TOO much of a splurge. While this wine can age a few more years, it is completely drinkable now, with loads of sweet spices, dense fruits, licorice and a super lingering finish. This is one of those wines that I like to drink on its own just to savor all the delicious layers. That said, it’s excellent with any kind of roasted meat, especially lamb."

If you have shopped at Whole Foods market and checked out the wine section, then you know that Whole Foods is serious about providing customers with an exciting selection in a relatively small space.   "When I think of winter wines," says Whole Foods Wine Specialist Jennifer Blake, "I inevitably think of winter food, for they go hand in hand for me.  The winter is a time for heartier meals and I like my wines to follow suit." 

Jennifer's picks and comments  - she chooses wines that compliment the winter dining experience. 

Value Wine:  P.K.N.T. Carmenere -  "I love Carmenere, a nice one will have notes of dark chocolate, pepper, a little smoke, a little tobacco… a bad one will taste like tar.  For around $10   P.K.N.T. is a nice example of what Carmenere can be without spending a fortune. Lovely with a peppery roast or a nice stew…"

Under the Radar: "Terredora Taurasi is one of my favorite wines right now. I just love the violet and tobacco on the nose, the bright fruit and lovely acidity…  it’s a fuller-bodied wine that can stand up to a heavier meal of game, or be just nice with something as simple as roasted vegetables."

Splurge: Jennifer chooses a fine Port.  "Winter for most people, myself included is a time for port. If I was going to splurge on something over $50 it would be the Warre's 2000 vintage Porto, for the tune of $75.00. This is worth the money. It’s a nice balance of the richness of a heavy fortified wine while retaining its light floral component. Classic pairing for port is blue cheese. Stilton and Maytag Blue… Of course a great bottle of port can always stand alone. Enjoyed simply as the best desert to cozy up to when it’s cold outside."

Adam Dromi of the Wine House in West Los Angeles thinks "Big, bold, comforting, warm, full body, rich, lush and opulent" when he thinks of winter selections. The one thing you can count on at the Wine House, in addition to a very helpful staff, is an amazing and thoughtful selection - including gourmet cheeses and some of the city's coolest wine related merchandise.

Adam's picks - thoughtfully pulled from the deep International shelves of the Wine House.

Value Wine: 2006 Henry's Drive Shiraz Dead Letter Office - McLaren Vale / Padthaway - South Australia

Under the Radar: A deep Red Rhone Blend - 2010 Boekenhoutskloof The Chocolate Block - Franschhoek - South Africa

Splurge: From Spain, a fine single vineyard, 100% Tempranillo - 2004 Pago de los Capellanes Parcela El Nogal Ribera del Duero.

Mike, from Wades Wines in Westlake Village says that Winter wines go "Well around a warm fireplace, a fine indoor dinner - as opposed to a summer wine - around the grill."  Wades specializes in limited production wines - offering one of the most unique wine selections available.  Wades is about hand crafted wines delivering "memorable experiences." They have introduced me to at least one memorable wine - my own Winter wine pick, one of my personal favorites, Prisoner.

Mike's picks - he stays very local for two of his selections - his third, an intriguing choice from the Central Coast.

Mike also provides a breakdown on "what's inside the bottle" and some comments of his own.

Value Wine:  2008 Mulholland Highway Wines Malibu Mélange Los Angeles County Red Wine

66% Triunfo Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
20% Stewart Vineyard Syrah
10% Triunfo Creek Vineyard Late Harvest Cabernet Sauvignon
2% Triunfo Creek Vineyard Merlot
2% Triunfo Creek Vineyard Cabernet Franc
46 cases produced

Under the Radar: 2008 Malibu Sundowner Alyssa Cuvee Triunfo Creek Vineyard Los Angeles County Red Wine - A blend...

30% Triunfo Creek Vineyard Upper Block Cabernet
30% Triunfo Creek Vineyard Lower Block Cabernet
34% Triunfo Creek Vineyard Late Harvest Cabernet
2% Triunfo Creek Vineyard Syrah
2% Triunfo Creek Vineyard Merlot
2% Triunfo Creek Vineyard Cabernet Franc
69 cases production

Splurge:  2008 Alban Patrina Estate Edna Valley Syrah - "Patrina" is another word for Gypsy, referring to not from any particular place. The Alban's vineyards are a patchwork of isolated soil types that you may recognize as Reva, Lorraine, Seymour's and Pandora. Between and in route to these well healed sites are vineyards that are not so distinct, some of it is new, younger vines, which were previously under contract or have been grafted over to Syrah. The grapes that make up these different blocks are blended into this exciting new project, a single wine called "Patrina”. Of course "Patrina" is treated with the same love and care as all Albans vineyard designated wines!

Four wine specialists, purveyors, wine lovers - each with a very different approach to Winter wines.

When I think of Winter Wines, it is about eating in the dining room. Rich Red Sauce on Pasta with Italian Sausages.  Relaxing around the fire pit - Overlooking Mammoth Village with a glass of wine in my hand (after a great day on the slopes). 

My picks - right out of my home cellar.

Value Wine:  Ruffino Chianti Classico Riserva Ducale Tan 2007 - Because it's a classic value wine, under $20 and I love the way it compliments a red sauce pasta with spicy Italian Sausage or home made meatballs - perfect winter wine - the berries and spicy overtones come together beautifully. It was good enough for Tony Soprano.

Under the Radar:  From Orin Swift - The Prisoner 2007.  Quite an interesting blend...which changes a bit from year to year.  I love the 2007.  A visit to this Rutherford Winery is high on my list in 2012.

50% Zinfandel
24% Cabernet Sauvignon
14% Syrah
9% Petite Sirah
2% Charbono
1% Grenache

Splurge: Duckhorn Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 - Let's face it, there are so many great splurge wines, but there is something about Duckhorn that goes well with winter.  The 2005 Duckhorn Cab is a rich classic with the kind of finish that warms you up inside and certainly compliments a juicy steak.

Gotta go - Thanks to Wine.com, Whole Foods, The Wine House and Wades Wines - I've got some shopping to do!

Send your comments, your feedback and your own Winter Wine picks to winefoodjava@gmail.com  We would love to hear from you.  Like us on Facebook

What I am listening to right now on the crowded LA freeways – Griftopia - I will never look at any politician the same again, Republican or Democrat.  It's a pretty scary indictment of today's political and financial world that provides some nice historical perspective.

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