As winter closes in and the holidays draw near, weightier wines help take the chill off the cooler nights. These bigger-bodied wines are also the perfect accompaniment for heartier winter fare.
NW Wine Company L’Umami Pinot Gris 2017
Willamette Valley, Oregon, $15
Winter nights shouldn’t mean goodbye to whites, but you might want to trade in your lighter libations for more mouth-coating quaffs. Many white wines can carry you through the colder months. Pinot gris, a spontaneous mutation of pinot noir native to France, can produce lighter wines (think Italian pinot grigio), as well as weightier ones. Oregon expressions of this grape often lean toward the lavish side.
L’Umami is a recent project from French winemaker Laurent Montalieu, co-founder of NW Wine Company, a custom winemaking facility in Oregon. The name is a nod to the umami-rich mushrooms that surround the vineyards. L’Umami Pinot Gris is produced from 100 percent pinot gris grapes sustainably grown in Willamette Valley. A lush expression of pinot gris, this straw-yellow wine immediately effuses a slight vinyl note (typically associated with riesling), followed by aromas of green apple, Meyer lemon, pear and almond, with a hint of graphite. The mouthfeel is delightfully smooth and creamy and the crisp acid beautifully balanced. Pear becomes more prevalent on the palate, bolstered by nutty notes. Drink this dry wine with savory dishes such as mushroom risotto, a teriyaki-ginger salmon bowl, and soy sauce-marinated chicken thighs.
This is a lot of wine for the $15 price. With only 280 cases produced, make sure you snag a bottle before the first snowstorm.
Michael David Inkblot Tannat 2013
Lodi, California, $40
From Australian shiraz to California cabs, ample choices abound when thirsting for a big red. But few grapes can match the power of southern France native tannat. Known for its bold tannins, high acid and rusticity, winemakers often choose to tame tannat, either by blending it with less-tannic grapes, or via oxygenation.
Michael David Inkblot Tannat is a wine geek’s dream. The Inkblot series, formerly only available to club members, highlights grapes that are brazen in both color and structure. This untamed wine does not disappoint. Predominantly tannat with a splash of petite sirah, its vibrant crimson color slowly fades to a ruby meniscus. Dried cherries and floral aromatics greet the nose, entwined with inklings of cured meats, all the while tickling one’s nose with its unabashed 14.8 percent ABV. The attack is abundant with powerful tannins, but they are well balanced and velvety on the palate. Subtle herbaceous flavors can be detected, but the main act is the dark fruits — black cherries, boysenberries and ripe plums — that wash over the tongue and finish on a bright quince paste note. Meant more for meat than meditation, pair with almost any iteration of lamb, braised pork belly with star anise and fennel, and pot roast.
At $40, you get a wine that not only promises to warm your toes, it will curl them.
Warre’s Otima 10 Tawny Port
Douro Valley, Portugal, $25
A perfect winter potation, Port is a fortified wine created by adding high-spirit brandy midway through the fermentation process, producing a wine high in both alcohol and residual sugar. A libation with a long history, Port sometimes struggles to remain relevant with today’s wine drinkers. Warre’s, the first British Port company, has found a way to keep their products fresh and engaging.
Warre’s Otima 10 Tawny Port is a blend of several native grapes that have been aged for an average of 10 years. The color is a deep orange-brown, evocative of the caramel coating on a candied apple. Maple sugar combines with stewed dates and toasted nuts on the nose in a warm, not overpowering, way. A surprisingly delicate mouthfeel with restrained sweetness leads to a melange of dried fruits and flavors reminiscent of Apple Brown Betty, while the finish displays nuances of apricot and clementine. The acid is refreshing, the fruit is bright and the wood aging is subtle, mellowing the wine while remaining understated. A versatile pairing partner, sip slightly chilled or at room temperature with blue cheese, nuts, cooked fruit desserts, chocolate, and sweet and savory Moroccan entrées, or simply pair with your own reflections at the end of a cold winter’s day.
Expect to pay $25 for 500 milliliters, which should see you through to spring.