The 5 Best Wines to Warm You Up This Winter
The chill of winter weather brings with it a shift in clothing, footwear, activities, and, of course, wine preferences. Just like bright rosés and sauvignon blancs hit the spot during hot summer months, warming cabernet sauvignons, chardonnays, and zinfandels satisfy like no other when the temperature drops.
An expert at complementing the weather of each season, CBC Restaurant manager Joe Cervantes has outfitted his wine cellar with vintages and varietals suitable for pairing with menu items and temperature swings alike. His current all-star list includes wines hailing from France, Italy, Napa Valley, and Russian River Valley in Sonoma. “They are fun to drink and great if you’re looking to warm up in the chilly winter months,” Cervantes says.
Here’s an insider’s guide to Cervantes’ top five winter wine picks, all available at CBC Restaurant at Malibu Beach Inn.
Vigneau-Chevreau Chenin Blanc “Cuvée Silex” Vouvray, Loire Valley 2018
Located in the heart of France’s Vouvray appellation, on the same land as the historic Marmoutier Abbey vineyard, Domain Vigneau-Chevreau has been in the same family for five generations. In 1995, the vineyard was converted to be completely organic — one of only two such producers in all of Vouvray.
With mild winters, moderate summers, and sunny autumns, grapes grown in the Vouvray hills enjoy a long maturation period and are imparted with hints of the limestone-based, siliceous (“silex”), flint-saturated soil native to the region. The Cuvée Silex reflects this heritage, and delivers pleasing, distinctive minerality. Nicely balanced, the wine finishes dry and is slightly acidic with light residual sugar.
“This beauty from the Loire Valley pairs perfectly with our Seafood Cioppino, and also can be paired nicely with fowl and Cornish hen,” says Cervantes. “Notes of yellow apple, honeydew melon, and cream make for an elegant and rich white wine in cooler temperatures.”
Antinori “Cervaro della Sala” Umbria 2017
One of the first Italian wines to be made with malolactic fermentation (or, secondary fermentation) in 1985, Antinori Cervaro della Sala derives its name from the noble family that owned the esteemed Umbria vineyard Castello della Sala during the 14th century. The wine combines Chardonnay grapes with a small amount of Grechetto grapes, and ages extremely well over time.
“Thanks to a warm 2017, this vintage packs a richness and fullness not seen every year,” Cervantes says. “Thanks to aging for five months in French oak barrels, notes of hazelnut and cream compliment the vibrant acidity present in the wine. Over-ripe peach and apricot notes finish the deal, creating a white [wine] that can honestly be enjoyed year-round.”
Valdicava Sangiovese “Brunello di Montalcino,” Tuscany 2004
The first vines of Valdicava were planted more than 50 years ago by the grandfather of the current owner, Vincenzo Abbruzzese. Abbruzzese, who took over operations of the northern Montalcino winery in 1987, works in tandem with oenologist Attilio Pagli and agronomist Andrea Paoletti to put out full-bodied Brunello vintages.
Valdicava’s grapes are organically grown using massal selection — the practice of replanting vineyards with cuttings from exceptional old vines taken from the same property. The results are low-yield harvests of grapes that express incredible individuality and uniqueness. Brunellos are characteristically very concentrated when young, requiring several years of aging (sometimes even decades) before being pleasant to drink. Once the time is right, they offer complex aromas of dark berries, smoke, and licorice, silky tannins, and a balanced finish.
After nearly 20 years, Cervantes says the 2004 Brunello di Montalcino is currently in its drinking prime. “Ripe cherries, luscious dark plums, and leather intertwine with velvety tannins that make for a wine drinker’s dream come true,” he says. “This wine is known for pairing well with game, beef, or lamb.”
Williams Selyem Zinfandel “Papera” Russian River Valley, Sonoma 2016
“Although zinfandels have gotten a bad rap over the years for lining the grocery stores’ bottom shelves in box wines, this 2016 beauty from the Russian River Valley is far from that,” Cervantes says of the 2016 Papera Vineyard Zinfandel from Williams Selyem.
Papera is an old-vine Zinfandel vineyard planted in 1934 and located on the eastern side of the Laguna de Santa Rosa. The 2016 vintage benefitted from an excellent growing season, with cooler temperatures in late February and increasing rain totals in March that helped slow down vegetative growth. The result was a slower maturation cycle, allowing for enhanced tannin and flavor development. After barrel-aging for 14 months, the 2016 Papera Vineyard Zinfandel was released in spring 2018.
“A bold and robust red with zippy fruits and fresh acidity, it can really warm you up on a chilly evening,” says Cervantes. “This high-ABV wine pairs luxuriously with barbecued red meat and bold cheeses.”
Opus One Cabernet Sauvignon Blend Oakville, Napa Valley 2012
Opus One was founded in 1978 by two wine legends: Baron Philippe de Rothschild, proprietor of Château Mouton Rothschild, and Robert Mondavi, renowned Napa Valley vintner. With their combined expertise, winemaking traditions, and innovative approaches as its foundation, Opus One’s singular goal is to create an extraordinary wine in the heart of Napa Valley.
The 2012 season was an excellent growing year, with plenty of rainfall in March preceded by a warm, dry winter. Spring, summer, and autumn gifted the vineyard with moderate temperatures and bountiful sunshine, resulting in one of Napa’s most remarkable vintages.
“This exquisite Bordeaux blend from the storied vineyards of Opus One in Oakville is the perfect winter wine,” Cervantes says. A blend of 79% cabernet sauvignon, 7% cabernet franc, 6% petit verdot, 6% merlot, and 2% malbec, it features incredible depth of flavor, layers of complexity, and excellent structure. “Heavy notes of black and blue fruits, tobacco, and hints of mint that wrap marvelously with well-balanced tannins.”