The long days of winter call for wines that warm you from the inside out.
We crave wines that pair with the rich and hearty foods that have been simmering all day on the stove, wines that pair with toasty fires, or wines that just lift your spirits on seemingly endless days full of rain and darkness — not to mention sometimes snow.
Whether it’s a celebration with family and friends or a solo night in, from bubbles to dark reds, below are a few recommendations of wines that will carry you through the winter season.
Vidon Vineyard nonvintage Estate “Mull”igan Red Wine with Spice, Chehalem Mountains, $25
One doesn’t expect to find mulled estate Pinot Noir, yet Vidon Vineyard has provided a holiday-friendly winter warmer to share with friends and family we missed in 2020. From fires to pandemic, the winery’s philosophy is that we can all use a “Mull”igan to replace 2020. The base wine, from 20-year-old vines in Vidon’s legacy Pinot Block, was blended and then 48 pounds of dried orange peel, cloves, cinnamon and allspice were added and steeped for three days. In the fall of 2020, Vicki and Don Hagge sold Vidon to Dru and Erin Allen, who say they’ve been fans of glühwein since Dru’s brother brought some with him while on leave from his station in Germany almost 15 years ago. According to Dru, “We have always had it on hand for get-togethers with friends and family, and everyone has always really enjoyed it. We felt that 2021 would be an opportunity to celebrate together again after a year in which gatherings were difficult, if not impossible. What better way than with a warm mug of mulled wine?”
Troon Vineyard 2019 Estate Syrah, Applegate Valley, $35
Troon loves Syrah, Syrah loves Troon, and we love Troon’s Syrah. This variety seems a perfect fit for the growing season and the weather in Southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley. As a result, Troon has planted Syrah in a diverse range of soil types using multiple clones. Much as a Willamette Valley producer might offer single block or clone offerings of Pinot Noir, Troon will be producing equally nuanced selections of Syrah. Each year, Craig Camp and winemaker Nate Wall release a range of distinctive bottlings that each are unique expressions of what this variety can achieve on the White family’s site. With three clones of Syrah in three soil types, this complex wine reveals the character of the entire vineyard. Deep ruby in color with garnet highlights, the Troon Vineyard 2019 Estate Syrah mixes spicy black pepper aromatics with savory dark fruit. Those flavors linger on the palate with rich textures balanced by a bracing acidity, as you might expect from the Applegate Valley. The finish is long and fresh, with the black pepper balancing the bright fruit.
Valcan Cellars 2020 White Malbec “Bare,” Rogue Valley, $24
If you’re looking for something really unusual, seek out Valcan Cellars White Malbec in downtown Corvallis. It might be the only White Malbec produced in the U.S. Juan Pablo (JP) Valot, owner and winemaker for Valcan Cellars, grew up in Mendoza and has been around Malbec vines and wines for much of his life. His Argentine background makes perfect sense when you discover the magic he is creating with this variety. (Pro tip: check out his new sparkling Malbec, too). Don’t be fooled by the name, the wine is more pink than it is white. But since it’s a red grape, made in the manner of a white wine, Valot calls it White Malbec. With grapes from Kelly Vineyard, the light- to medium-bodied wine features bright acidity, smooth tannins and a long finish. It delivers flavors and aromas of wild berries, apple, pear, melon, lemon blossom and a touch of citrus. And while one may typically expect pink wines to be served in the summer, this may change the way you think about rosé.
GC Wines 2019 Redford-Wetle Gamay Noir, Eola-Amity Hills, $25
John Grochau made his winemaking debut with Gamay from the organically farmed Redford-Wetle site a few years ago, and the 2018 is just singing right now. Redford-Wetle Farm is a certified organic vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills. Sitting on an eastern-facing slope, the blend of volcanic Jory and Nekia soils makes for a stunning wine. On the nose, this Gamay is cranberry, white pepper, tobacco and cinnamon stick. It has bright acid, juicy fruit, medium body and lingering cranberry and orange rind on the finish. Enjoy with turkey or goose.
Lolati Wines 2019 Primitivo, Columbia Valley, $36
After being an assistant winemaker for years, Leigh Brown began making wine under her own label in 2019. Inspired by her experience working harvest in South Africa in 2009, she enjoys working with heavier red varieties, like this rocking red Primitivo. Lolati’s Primitivo comes from Bolton Family Vineyard on the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge near Lyle and was aged in neutral French oak for 18 months, producing a rich wine with some peppery notes along with deep, rich dark fruit flavors of dark cherry and blackberries and an earthy, ripe finish. Savor this fireside wine with flavorful stews such as Beef Tagine, grilled meats, Leigh’s own Plum, Fig & Blue Cheese Tart or desserts rich in dark chocolate.
Bryn Mawr Vineyards 2016 Tempranillo, Eola-Amity Hills, $50
Perched on the upper crest of the acclaimed Eola-Amity Hills, Bryn Mawr’s 40-acre LIVE-certified estate is battered by powerful winds sweeping through the Van Duzer Corridor from the Pacific Coast. Their vines are anchored into rocky volcanic soils on the steep vineyard and produce powerful characteristics across their entire portfolio. The whites and pinks are nervy, acid-driven and refreshingly crisp. The reds are bold and edgy, as is their Tempranillo. Dark violet in color, they sport a nose that is rich and lifted with sweet vanilla bean and cocoa butter st the outset. After a twirl, the dried cherry, sweet fig and pepper notes come jumping out to greet you. The palate is smooth and complete. Concentrated fruit and earthy cocoa nibs emerge on the midpalate, while the tannins are perfectly balanced and satisfying all the way to the end. Rachel Rose is both the winemaker and vineyard director for Bryn Mawr, giving her complete control from grape to glass. Under her leadership, they’re crafting wines of great complexity and tension and have continually elevated their production and quality recently. A common adage among the team is “high hill, high risk, high reward,” and that tenacious spirit is reflected in all that they do.
Leah Jørgensen Cellars 2020 Cabernet Franc, Southern Oregon, $25
Grapes for this wine were sourced from Crater View Ranch and Sundown Vineyard, both in Southern Oregon. With the fires in Oregon, 2020 was a challenge for winemakers and some chose to not make wine from the vintage. That is not the case for Leah Jørgensen. Like most Cab Francs, hers showcase hints of tobacco leaf and cigar, so an element of smoke can marry well with these components. Lovely and lifted aromatics of ripe cherry, violets, vanilla and bourbon are included with cherry tobacco. The palate is smooth, with lots of ripe cherry, boysenberry and lingonberry jam. Its midpalate of velvety texture meanders into crushed herbs, cigar leaf and astringent black tea. Leah says, “I love this wine! I am proud of this wine! And I will be damned if people write off 2020 when there are plenty of winemakers producing graceful, interesting wines! While this is not a vintage that I would personally cellar for as long as, say, my 2019 Oregon Cab Franc. Make no mistake, the 2020 holds up!”
Gran Moraine 2014 Blanc de Blancs, Yamhill-Carlton, $90
Bubbles are not only perfect any time of year, they’re the perfect way to begin or end any evening (or article). This inaugural release of Gran Moraine’s estate-grown 2014 Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine is a bit of sass and a lot of class, all in a glass. Made entirely from two treasured blocks of estate Chardonnay, it’s been en tirage for nearly six years, where it built character and tiny, precise bubbles. The resulting wine is pure elegance with aromas of lemon curd, kumquat, toasted baguette and grassy meadow, with flavors of orange peel, lilac, persimmons and Meyer lemon. Focused and brilliant, it’s sure to appeal to the hard-core bubble fanatics as well as the casual imbiber. Idaho native Shane Moore, who graduated from Washington State University with a bachelor’s degree in viticulture and enology, suggests pairing it with ramen, corn dogs, oysters, tempura, existential dilemmas, sunrises, reunions and off-beat pop music.