Wine for warmth

CJ’s on the Bay

We are in the heart of our winter here in southwest Florida. Crisp mornings, breezy afternoons that are warm in the sun and cool in the shade, and evenings that dip quickly cool again. While our weather is exemplar compared to our friends north of the Georgia/Florida border, we still need layers of sweatshirts and jackets. One way to warm up is to sip a nice wine.

Although white wines are most often associated with warm days, there are some that work quite well in cool weather. A complex chardonnay is great on a cool evening. Iron Horse Vineyard has a great chardonnay from the 2012 vintage. This wine is made with 100 percent chardonnay grapes from the Green Valley (part of the Russian River Valley) in Sonoma County, California.

One technique used to make this wine is called "batonnage" which means frequent stirring of the lees. The winemakers do this at least three times per week for seven months to create a silky wine that still has fruity qualities as well as minerality and yeastiness. This chardonnay pairs wonderfully with grilled salmon, a warm spinach salad with bacon or a nice thyme infused roasted chicken.

When I am looking for something to take off the chill, I look to red wine. Pinot noir is a bit light for this time of year – I usually lean toward a nice merlot. Frog's Leap merlot from Napa Valley California is a classic varietal that does not disappoint. This wine has flavors of plum and sage. This merlot is soft, supple and well balanced. You could sip on this before dinner, or pair it with pot roast or that thyme infused roasted chicken.

Another merlot I really like is from Chateau Ste Michelle in Washington State. The vineyard for this varietal is poised on a slope above the Columbia River. It has been said that merlot likes to grow with "cold feet" and a "warm body". The blustery weather on this riverside slope is the perfect spot for these vines. This particular merlot has a nice balance of red currant as well as hearty tannins from its 22 month repose in oak barrels. This wine is great with a porterhouse steak and some roasted sweet potato wedges.

If you are feeling fancy, go for a higher end cabernet sauvignon. Provenance Vineyards in Napa Valley, California creates several very, very good wines. The 2012 cabernet sauvignon is lush with dark cherry and blackberry with a touch of cocoa at the finish. This wine will make you swoon! Superb with roasted or braised lamb or with a gorgonzola crusted filet mignon. This wine stands up to any special occasion with gusto.

To end a heady, wine filled evening, a perfect night cap is a glass of port and some aged Gouda or Stilton cheese. Six Grapes from Graham's is an excellent choice. There really are six varietals of grapes in the wine. The wine is bottled when it is fairly young to conserve its fresh style and concentration of fruit.

Bundle up, sip on some delicious and count the days till winter is over. Cheers.