But what about white wines for weathering winter weather? Most consumers usually think of white wines as warm weather companions. However, there are many white wines on the market that can be enjoyed all year long. Like wool scarves and flannel sheets, big white wines can provide warmth and contentment. Pair them with comfort foods such as white bean chili or roasted chicken and you have a match akin to red wine and steak.
The essential characteristics that I look for in winter whites are relatively straight forward. It's really all about structure. I like white wines that carry a lot of weight and density in the mouth and fruit notes centered around pear, peach, roasted nuts and tropical fruits.
Here are a few of my favorite examples of white wines that are perfect for a winter evening. Retail prices are approximate.
There is not a lot of domestic Semillon wine produced in California, but fortunately, the 2008 Saxon Brown Semillon from the Cricket Creek Vineyard in Alexander Valley ($18) is available in our area. The creamy mouthfeel is full of ripe pear, white fig and honeydew melon. The rich finish sports integrated notes of orange blossom and Gala apple. If you like crab cakes, this is your wine.
One of my favorite winter whites is the 2010 d'Arenberg Hermit Crab Viognier/Marsanne Blend from McLaren Vale region of Australia ($18). The wonderfully rich wine is packed with tropical fruit characteristics, orange marmalade, honeysuckle and white flowers. It would pair beautifully with fish tacos.
The French version of the aforementioned wine is the 2010 Gonnet Cotes du Rhone Blanc from the Rhone Valley region ($14). A blend of Roussanne and Viognier, it has a floral nose featuring scents of acacia and honeysuckle. The mouthfeel is juicy, featuring ripe pear and notes of canned peaches. The structure is wonderfully solid for a wine at this price. Pair it with grilled halibut or seared scallops.
For an American version of the white Rhone blend, try the 2009 Treana Viognier-Marsanne blend from the Central Coast of California ($23). It displays a characteristic floral nose with aromas of orange blossom and white flowers. Hefty flavors of ripe peach, pear, pineapple have a beautiful weight in the mouth. The wine has excellent balance and complexity, and notes of honey on the back of the finish keep you come back for another sip. Perfect with roasted chicken.
While I may like to enjoy my Chardonnays naked (unoaked) in the summer, I want them fully clothed in oak for winter consumption. It is the oak aging that gives Chardonnay wines their depth and richness.
The 2008 Beringer Private Reserve Chardonnay from Napa Valley, California ($30) is an excellent example of a rich, complex style that bends towards sumptuous without being overly excessive. It has layers of juicy pear, green melon and Calimyrna fig on the front of the palate. Notes of roasted hazelnut and a touch of pumpkin pie spices glide in on the remarkably balanced finish. It is a big white wine in search of a lobster dinner.
Another excellent Chardonnay to warm up with this winter is the 2008 Ramey Chardonnay from Sonoma Coast, California ($32). This wine is remarkably complex, featuring scents of apple blossoms and buttered toast on the fragrant nose and layers of peaches, pears and melon in the mouth. Highlights of roasted nuts and brioche camp out on the unctuous finish and would be an excellent choice to enjoy with apple cider braised pork.