Here in Westchester we have had one hell of a winter that seems to be neverending… hopefully that Groundhog has some actual forecasting ability. We have seen everything from whiteout blizzards, to freezing rain and sleet, to these hail and ice storms that leave our neighborhoods looking like a scene from one of those natural disaster movies. Since we all have had to become junior meteorologists to navigate through this nonsense, I have found that certain storms invoke cravings for different styles of wines depending on their characteristics. I know it sounds crazy, but have a look below and it will make a little more sense.
For the light snow and flurries, I prefer something easy drinking, a little lighter bodied and with low alcohol. Because let’s face it, with the amount of these we have had this winter if we were to drink the heavy stuff every time there was a little snow we would be wasted the entire winter. The 2007 Pinot Noirs from the Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley seem to be great across the board and at all price levels. In my growing years I am also finding wines from Beaujolais a frequent option. I used to find them tart and fruity, but lately I am really enjoying the simple fruit and pleasant softness most of them exhibit.
Whiteouts and Blizzards call for something a little more substantial as one can never tell how long you may be cooped up. Nothing beats curling up on the couch with a nice glass of Ribera del Duero, which are big and spicy Spanish wines made mostly from the Tempranillo grape. They are similar to the wines of Rioja, but the fruit is darker, the tannins are firmer and the alcohol is higher which will keep you nice and warm on those cold nights. It also makes a great pairing with beef dishes if you are so inclined to throw a steak on the grill.
When the Ice Storm Cometh, nothing seems more appropriate than a sweet and sticky Ice Wine. The grapes used to make these white dessert wines are picked off the vines while they are still frozen, so all the sugars are super concentrated. Flavors of honey, apricot and caramel are common and they are perfect for easy sippin’ or to enjoy with some Roquefort or other stinky cheese selections. The better ones from France (Sauternes), Hungary (Tokaji) and Canada can be a little steep. But there are some nice Late Harvest options from California, New Zealand and even the Finger Lakes region of New York that fall in the value price range and are pretty readily available.
So the next time you turn on the news and see a storm coming, there is no need for dismay. Sure you may have to load up the fridge, shovel the driveway and figure out what to do with the kids when school is closed. But at least you have that nice glass (or bottle!) of wine to look forward to at the end of the day.