A Winter Wonderland of Wines

It’s winter, it’s Tahoe and in a perfect world the slopes are full of pow. Whether you are shredding off-piste or diggin’ the big arcs on long groomers under sun-filled skies, après-ski afternoons or evenings call for wines with pow, as well. Such a wine warms the soul, relaxes aching muscles and sets the tone for sweet dreams of another day on the snow.

That being the case, spicy full-bodied wines are the order of the evening, so let’s look at some that are sure to fit the bill.

Pinots with Punch | For Pinot-lovers, I suggest imbibing in some classic Cali-style juice. California Pinot Noirs tend to be on the dark and robust side with black cherry and warm spice-box profiles. You don’t have to break the bank for these as often. It’s the mid-priced Pinots that show a little more gusto, partially because they are far more likely to be bolstered with Syrah, Petit Sirah or even Merlot.

“Wine warms the soul, relaxes aching muscles and sets the tone for sweet dreams of another day on the snow.”

Rhône Ranger | Other great fireside sippers come from wines that are built on the Rhône grapes such as Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Petite Sirah, that up the intensity especially on the body and spice meters. Black and white pepper, stout tannins and ripe black berries and plums ooze from the glass with these elixirs. Again, California versions are more likely to bring the big, bold, sexy goodness from these grapes. Red blends usually contain these grapes along with a dollop or two of Zinfandel. Look for Paso Robles and Lodi on the label because they are good sources for Rhône Ranger-style wines.

Zins with Spice | Speaking of our all-American wine Zinfandel, these are models of all that is good in winter wines with the biggest doses of body and fruits and the warmest of spices. Search out dry versions as the sweeter Zins tend to tire the palate and give a sugar hangover that we definitely don’t want to carry onto the slopes the next day. The Sierra Foothills and Mendocino Zins not only fit this profile, but are usually bargains, as well.

Voluptuous Whites | For die-hard white wine drinkers, I suggest you step out of the box and seek out dry Gewürztraminers and Viogniers that are voluptuous of body and feature stone fruits, flowers and cookie spices on the palate. Sierra Foothills favorite Sobon Estate makes a wonderful and affordable Viognier and Mendocino’s Navarro Vineyard & Winery offers a world-class dry Gewürz for around $20.

One of the beauties of being in Tahoe is that our local wine purveyors combine passions for the snow and the vino and are happy to help you find wines that match your palate and your pocketbook. Remember, that popping a bottle of wine is part and parcel of any pray-for-snow ceremony.

Read more from Lou Phillips.