We all have our favorite winter comfort foods. This is the time of year that thoughts turn from crisp whites or bright, flavorful Rosés to luscious Cabernet Sauvignon or a powerhouse Zinfandel to pair with the hearthside meals.
Cabernet Sauvignon is considered the "king of reds" so you know it’s the place to start. Cabernet is a fruity wine with a heavier dose of tannins than other red wines. A typical Cabernet will have dark fruit flavors like plum, cassis, blackberry, and/or boysenberry and often offers an herbal quality as well. Since this wine is usually fermented in oak, flavors of vanilla, dill, caramel, toast, and coffee will be an integral part.
As far as a food pairing, the classic one is steak. Yes, beef—all you need to do is think "Cab and cow" and you have a perfect pairing. A good fillet mignon seared just right with the perfect Cabernet is almost unbeatable.
Zinfandel is another good choice with its fresh, ripe, jammy fruit. How can you pass up strong fruit flavors? Zinfandels can run a large gamut…from the fresh and fruity, low alcohol and red raspberry to the ultra-ripe, jammy, sweet and high alcohol.
For savory dishes try the lighter style Zins. The lower alcohol content pairs nicely with a large variety of food, but Italian red sauces do especially well. Eggplant Parmesan, meatballs, or even just plain old spaghetti make for a wonderful pairing. The fresh fruit just brings out the tangy acid in the tomato-based sauces.
On the other hand, the sweeter, gooey Zins will pair well with cheeses and chocolate desserts…on romantic evenings in front of the fire. Whichever style you choose, you are bound to have a winner.
Here are a few wine choices to help you build your arsenal of hearty winter wines for your winter hearty dishes.
- Root 1: This Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon made by the Viña Ventisquero winery has highly concentrated lush fruit flavors born of a hot, dry climate. It’s a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Syrah. The description on the back of the label is accurate, “rich red wine with black currant, mocha & cherry flavors”. This wine pours a dark ruby and has aromas of black cherry, plum, and mocha. Easy-drinking, it offers flavors of cherry, blackberry, and a touch of oak. t is full-bodied, with medium tannins and acidity. Around $10.
- 14 Hands Cabernet Sauvignon: This one is a must try for cab lovers who value supple tannins. This Washington State wine celebrates the spirit of the wild horses (actually ponies) in the hills of the Columbia River Valley. The blend is predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon with Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and a few other select red varieties added for good measure. Aromas of allspice, cherries and oak meld with the distinctive Washington State flavors of chocolate, mocha and cherries to make an easily drinkable, velvety wine with a long, soft finish. This wine is a gem at around $12.
- Alpha Omega Cabernet Sauvignon 2009: This Cabernet Sauvignon explodes with dark red fruit (black cherry, plum and black currant), smoke, licorice and tar aromas. The blend is 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot, and it’s sleek, elegant and refined. The flavors begin with soft black currant, blueberry and black cherry, balanced with a backbone of acidity with hints of red currant, red cherry and blackberry pie and end with subtle touches of earth and cedar. This is an incredible wine! Around $75.
- Cartlidge & Browne Zinfandel Amador 2010: This Amador County, California blend of 95% Zinfandel and 5% Petite Sirah offers aromas of ripe black cherry, a little blueberry, licorice and brown sugar. Rich raspberry, black cherry and soft chocolate flavors linger on the palate, mingling with soft tannins and spice. About $12.
- Seghesio Family Vineyards Zinfandel Rockpile 2010 is an intense and smokey Zinfandel that begs to be paired with lamb. Aromas of spice box and red fruit are prominent. This wine is bold and intense, briary with cherry, currant, candied apple, and raspberry flavors, followed by smoke and spice. It’s perfectly balanced and flavorful with focused acidity and an extremely long finish. Around $30.
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