Cozying Up with Winter Warmers

DrinkingRedWine_Fire-On a cold, dreary January day, I like to settle in with a robust red wine that warms me to my extremities.  Following are four reasonably-priced favorites that we keep stocked at my house for those winter weekends when we have the luxury of hibernating indoors.

Mark West Pinot Noir (
Winemaker’s notes:  Enticing aromas of strawberry and raspberry with barrel notes of caramel, vanilla and baking spices.  Oak aging rounds out the palate and gives the wine its body.  The wine drinks of deep, concentrated raspberry, cherry pie with a touch of cola berry.  The wine shows juicy fruit texture and subtle oak.

Lisa’s notes:  At $10 a bottle, I think this is a very nice California pinot noir.  Although it’s slightly heavy on the oak, the fruit surfaces enough to make for a well balanced wine.  I’ve found it to be a nice accompaniment to salmon.

Cupcake Red Velvet (
Winemaker’s notes:  Over the top aromas of chocolate, deep rich blackberries, red fruits that follow through the palate to a creamy mocha finish that is unmistakable in its intensity and length, with a hint of coconut.  It’s reminiscent of a blackberry chocolate cupcake with a mocha coulis.

Lisa’s notes:  This California wine, averaging about $10 a bottle, is a tasty blend of Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Syrah grapes.  With just a hint of sweetness on the finish, I find it to be light and velvety enough to drink on its own.  The winemaker suggests pairing it with sweet and spicy Hoisin steak, a barbecue bacon cheeseburger, or even dark chocolate fondue.

Banfi Centine (
Winemaker’s notes:  A blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  On the nose, fruity notes of raspberry and plums, but also spicy hints of coffee, liquorices and cinnamon.  The complex structure, soft and round at the same time, makes this wine particularly elegant.

Lisa’s notes:  Having visited the Banfi vineyard estate and winery while vacationing in Italy, I find the “Super Tuscan” Centine just as appealing at home as it was in its enchanting birthplace.  This ruby red beauty is medium-bodied with intense cherry and blackberry flavors.  It’s an exquisite wine with soft tannins and a lingering finish.  And at $9 – $12 a bottle, it’s a superb value!  While I enjoy it on its own, it also pairs well with pastas, roasts, grilled meats or poultry, and medium-aged cheese.

Salvatore Principe Malbec  (
Winemaker’s notes:  This Cabernet Sauvignon from Argentina is complex and beautifully crafted.  The grapes are harvested from low yielding vines, creating a wine that is rich in color showcasing dark plum and cherry flavors accented by layers of chocolate.  Twelve months of oak aging adds character and tantalizing tannins.

Lisa’s notes:  My husband and I were introduced to Malbec at a 2010 Christmas Eve dinner and were instantly infatuated.  When we happened upon a bottle of Salvatore Principe’s Malbec at Sam’s Club, the artistic label enticed us to try it.  This luscious wine, which costs $9 – $12 a bottle, blends flavors of ripe plum, warm spices, a hint of chocolate, with a finish of juicy raspberry.  Try it with pasta, vegetables, cheeses, pizza and roasted meats.