Red wine is coming! As a whiff of winter creeps into the air, there’s a coziness we’re beginning to crave after sweating it out all summer. Jumping back to the old standby bottles of red is as easy as digging out your winter boots, but there’s no need to set yourself up for a midwinter-rut. We’re celebrating the return of first loves and introducing new loves to broaden your roster of wines to keep warm with this red season.
For the Cab-lovers
If you’re a fan of broody, broad-shouldered Cabernet Sauvignon, you’re in good company, friend. Cabernet is the most popular red wine grape in the world, and though its style can vary dramatically between regions and winemaking practices, most Cab fanatics are die-hards for the dark fruits, robust body, and ample tannin found at the end of the Cabernet rainbow — allow us to expand the spectrum just a bit.
Alexander Valley Vineyards
The vineyards that made the appellation, Alexander Valley Vineyards are well know within the Sonoma subregion for fresh fruit and elegant structure. What started out as a family-secret Cabernet grew into AVV’s flagship wine, its pure flavors and impressive aromatics setting the standard for the entire valley. That benchmark holds true today, all 600 acres of AVV’s vineyards being certified sustainable. Winemaker Kevin Hall embraces the Bordeaux style blend, using his arsenal of red grapes to support their flagship Cab in each vintage depending on nature’s input. The result is an elegant blend of plum, cassis, vanilla, black cherry, and a lovely warm spice on the finish.
If you’re ready to level up your appreciation of big flavor and tannin, give Barolo a shot. Supremely ageable and requiring chill time in barrel, these crown jewels of Piedmont can get majorly pricy. But family-owned GD Vajra, one of the first adopters of organic farming in the Alpine region of Piedmont, places higher importance on investing in the land and investigating its potential (Piedmontese Riesling, anyone?!) than strong-arming the highest profit margin. Albe Barolo is 100% Nebbiolo from high-altitude lots, perfect for preserving acid and ripening tannin. The beautiful core of red cassis, violet, and dark cherry is framed by notes of star anise, dark earth, and fresh mint — an ode to classic Nebbiolo, without the gatekeeping.
For the Pinot Pals
Real Pinot Noir lovers are the adrenaline junkies of the wine world. Pinot’s razor edge of acid is like the first drop of a rollercoaster, the grape’s potential for complexity offering twists and turns along the way. Come, ye thrill seekers, we’ve got some higher highs for ya.
Coeur de Terre
Willamette Pinot Noir
McMinnville is the destination for Oregon Pinot Noir with a screaming backbone of minerality. Soils in this region align only in their intense expressiveness, and Coeur de Terre winemaker Scott Neal embraces that diversity like it’s his mission. His Willamette Pinot Noir is comprised predominantly of estate fruit, expressing the intimate particulars of Coeur de Terre’s biodynamically-cared-for soils with more complexity than nearly any other Pinot in its price bracket. Deep cherry notes are swathed in savory cured meat, visceral earth, cedar, orange oil, and a dusting of herbs de Provence.
Being the holy grail of Italian wine grapes, the prestige of Nebbiolo can leave those who might dabble finding themselves priced out of the party. Especially from within the heart of famed Barbaresco, not a lot of approachable wine is being made to coax would-be fans out of the woodwork. This generation of Giordanos think that’s molto pazzo. Family-owned since the 1930’s, the Giordanos take advantage of their younger Nebbiolo vines to produce a Rosso with 10% Arneis to showcase a delicate expression of Nebbiolo’s aromatics and finesse. In the glass it’s a pale ruby with aromas of cranberry, pomegranate, and strawberry leaf, its light and alluring body singing with a mineral purity that will make Pinot partisans swoon (especially with a light chill!).
For Those with a Blend Bend
From the Santa Barbara all-star winemakers of Jonata and The Hilt, The Pairing Red Blend is a mix of youthful fruit aspiring towards greatness. A more lush expression of the Jonata Bordeaux-inspired wines, Cabernet leads the blend with classic notes of cassis, espresso, and sweet tobacco, its body flavor-dense and balanced against a structured but fruity finish. Its name (Paring not Pairing) is a nod to the chefs who have enthusiastically poured The Pairing by the glass for its incredible value and food versatility.
The Comeback Kid: Merlot!
If Merlot has fallen off your radar since being maligned by Hollywood almost 20 years ago, then saddle up — it’s time to give this pony another shot. As its label suggests, Textbook Merlot is the perfect classic reentry into Napa’s softer, more nuanced full-bodied red grape. A New World wine with Old World sensibilities, the Pey family winemakers seek Napa ripeness without pushing the fruit to be as big and bombastic as possible. Their Merlot is supple with boysenberry and cassis, mocha and ripe black cherry juice, finished with a clear peal of silky toasted-vanilla tannin.
-Aimee Hutchinson | Wine Manager Top Ten Liquors