Warming Winter Wines

by Robin Barr Sussman on January 16, 2019 in Food+Drink, Drink,
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Baby, it’s cold outside! So, why not curl up in front of a warm fireplace with a relaxing glass of wine and decompress after the crazy holidays?

Most wine lovers are thinking red wine about now—but many full-bodied aromatic whites have spice nuances that pair with light meat, pasta, vegetarian or seafood. Here are a few discoveries to try on the next cold night and a #brilliantpairing recipe below.


E. Guigal, France

The famous Guigal family produces exceedingly impressive value wines. Its Côtes du Rhône Rouge 2015 is a concentrated blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre. Juicy with ripe tannins, anticipate black cherry and ripe blackberry flavors with nuances of smoke, spice and pepper. Enjoy with barbecue, gourmet burgers and pizza. At this price, you can invite all your friends. Buy it: Spec’s, Total Wine & More, Houston Wine Merchant and Austin Wine MerchantAbout $15; magnum only $35

Crozes-Hermitage Rouge 2015

A gateway to luxury wine with an approachable price tag. Using the Northern Rhône’s signature varietal, Syrah, this elegant pick evokes warm flavors of dark fruit, black pepper, campfire smoke and savory notes. Sip with grilled steaks or chops, stews, or a cheese course. Buy it: Spec’s, Total Wine & More, Houston and Austin Wine Merchant. About $25

Photo courtesy Jordan Winery

Jordan 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley, California

Modeled after First Growth Bordeaux, and has remained one of the top Cabernet brands on the best U.S. restaurant wine lists for decades. The balanced wine with ripe dark fruit, red currant, dried herb and tobacco leaf notes, coats the palate with velvety richness and fine tannin structure due to its aging in new French oak. Splurge-worthy. Buy it: Central Market, Spec’s, Total Wine & More. About $50

Amici Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2017, California

Black raspberries and baking spices on the nose with pepper, dried herb and underbrush tones. Its plush texture and bright acidity begs for grilled salmon, Brie and strawberry platters, and pork chops. Also look for the Amici Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2015, full-bodied with notes of allspice, vanilla and clove and aromas of cassis and blackberry. Buy it: Spec’s, Total Wine & More, Houston Wine Merchant. Pinot Noir about $40

Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel 2016

The flagship wine of the family-owned Zin-famous winery. Diverse lots of Zinfandel grapes, along with a splash of Petite Syrah for color and structure, make this smooth selection. It offers tantalizing blueberry, raspberry and classic briary and spicy flavors. Bring on the lasagna, hearty grilled veggies and spicy grilled sausage! Buy it: Spec’s, Total Wine & More, Houston and Austin Wine Merchant. About $25

Bring on the lasagna, hearty grilled veggies and spicy grilled sausage with Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel 2016. Courtesy photo

Moshin Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley 2013

Classic aromas of plum, cola and spice with hints of bacon fat and a balanced meaty mouth feel. Bright cranberry and black currant flavors dance on the palate. Buy it: Houston Wine Merchants, Austin Wine Merchants, Spec’s. About $40

Copertino Riserva Puglis 2009

From Puglia, the heel of the boot of Italy, this is your upscale pizza and pasta wine for a steal.  Warm, rich and generous with complex tones and flavors of almond, black currant and Mediterranean vegetation. Buy it: Spec’s, Central Market, Spec’s, Total Wine & More. About $14.99

Tolaini ‘Al Passo’ Super Tuscan 2012

Out performs its price. Made by renowned winemaker Michel Rolland, this single vineyard estate wine is a blend of 85% Sangiovese and 15% Merlot. Expect spicy French oak notes with fragrant aromas of cherry and berry. Buy it: Spec’s, Central Market. About $24.99 ($17.99 January special at Central Market)


Amici Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2016

A classic Chardonnay with a fine balance of lushness and delicate acidity. Enticing crisp apple, Bartlett pear, lemon lime, and hazelnut aromas lead to a Meyer lemon and lemon oil flavor on the palate and a long mineral finish. Richly textured with a hint of butter. Buy it: Spec’s, Total Wine & More, Houston Wine Merchant. About $25

Amici Chardonnay Sonoma Coast is a classic Chardonnay with a fine balance of lushness and delicate acidity. Courtesy photo

Murrieta’s Well, The Whip, Livermore Valley, California 2016

A beautifully balanced small lot wine blend of Viognier, Orange Muscat, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. Gorgeously aromatic, rich yet crisp and artfully crafted. Bravo!  Buy it: Spec’s, Houston Wine Merchant. About $24

Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California 2017

A floral bouquet of citrus, orange blossom and white peach—a real treat in the mouth. Weighty on the tongue, it has well balanced acidity and a clean finish with zing and minerality mixed with pear, baked apple and lemon. Buy it: Spec’s, Total Wine & More. About $35

Crazy Creatures Gruner Veltliner 2017, Austria

My go-to white for any time of year but especially winter because it wakes up a sleepy palate with a fresh, wild crispness. The dry palate offers green pear and zest along with peppery hints of herbs that balance out hearty fare. Buy it: Spec’s, Total Wine & More. About $18

The Brilliant Pairing

Carrabba’s Italian Meatballs

Pair with Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel

Pair Carrabba;s Spaghetti Meatballs with Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel. Courtesy photo

Serve these meatballs with your favorite marinara as an appetizer or with spaghetti and savory tomato sauce. The secret lies in the Italian-style three kinds of meat for a moist light meatball.


½ pound ground pork

½ pound ground veal

½ pound ground beef

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

4 minced garlic cloves, sautéed

1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs

¼ cup finely chopped parsley

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil

Yield: 8 to 10 servings


Combine all ingredients except olive oil in a large bowl. Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Roll meat mixture into 1-1/2-inch balls and pan fry until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a lined paper towels. Keep warm until serving.

Robin Barr Sussman is a freelance culinary and travel writer who studied at the Culinary Institute of America Greystone California. As a chef for Sonoma County wineries, her specialty was food and wine pairing. Sussman’s work appears in Texas Monthly, Fodor’s and Private Clubs Magazine.