2020 Winter Wines, Part I

White Rhône values: Caves de Tain Crozes-Hermitage and Côtes du Rhône Ferraton. | Lou Phillips

This is a wonderful time for winter wines, to suggest not only wine styles that soothe our chilled bones, but also selections that really deliver on quality/price ratio. They should warm your cockles: a screw-up of the Latin term, cochleae cordis or the heart’s ventricles.

To really do this justice and maybe to encourage Old Man Winter to pull up a mountain and stay for a while, I’ll do a white feature followed by a red one.

For white wines, let’s look at some wines that not only fill the bill for rich and warming, but may get you out of your white wheelhouse in a good way.

For white wines, let’s look at some wines that not only fill the bill for rich and warming, but may get you out of your white wheelhouse in a very good way. First up are single-grape or blended wines made from traditionally Rhône Valley grapes such as Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne and more. Lovely versions can be had from value terroirs such as the Côtes du Rhône and Crozes-Hermitage. In Santa Barbara, Lumen Wines makes a delicious Grenache Blanc that also ages well. I have some 2014 in my cellar that is rockin’ the cradle right now.

Alsatian magic: Domaine Humbrecht Pinot Gris and Domaine Meyer Riesling. | Lou Phillips
All-American dessert wine: Quady Winery Essensia. | Lou Phillips

Another white category is actually an entire region. The grapes in question are Pinot Blanc, Riesling and Gewürztraminer and the place is hard up against the Vosges Mountains in northeast France near Alsace. You probably think these varietals make crisp summer sippers, but in the sunny, alpine villages of Alsace they magically become, rich, complex and spicy enough to bring the heat. They are also great matches for winter-warming dishes such as pork with sauerkraut and apples or spicy Asian fare. Yum.

Another place of origin for winter-worthy Rieslings is Australia. Not the Oz of rich Shiraz, Barossa, but from a bit upcountry in Clare Valley.

While we are Down Under, we should tipple some stickies — the Australian term for dessert wines. The most famous are Muscats from the Rutherglen appellation. Although the best can get expensive, there are plenty of value options with offerings from both Chambers Rosewood and RL Buller wineries that are widely available. Another sweetie worth a peak is PX Sherry from Jerez, Spain. Made primarily from the Pedro Ximénez grape, these babies are full of roasted honey and toasted almond flavors. Bodegas Alvear delivers exceptional examples at all price points.

From California’s Central Valley comes Quady Winery’s Essensia from Orange Muscat. This wine has not only sweetness but complexity and brightness that matches well with desserts of all types — perfect when you just want a small but memorable glass in front of the fire or on the hill.

Read Part II on winter reds in the next edition.