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‘Tis winter, true, but that does not necessarily relegate us to only red wines. White wines are perfectly fine with braised meats, stews, soups, pasta dishes and wintertime comfort foods (hello, mashed potatoes!). Look for white wines with lots of oak, viscosity and layers of complexity – and reserve those with tropical-fruit notes and bright […]

‘Tis winter, true, but that does not necessarily relegate us to only red wines. White wines are perfectly fine with braised meats, stews, soups, pasta dishes and wintertime comfort foods (hello, mashed potatoes!). Look for white wines with lots of oak, viscosity and layers of complexity – and reserve those with tropical-fruit notes and bright acidity for the long, sun-filled days after Memorial Day weekend.

Some of my suggestions:

2010 Big House White Wine (Central Coast, Calif. $10)
Blends non-traditional grapes (such as Malvasia Blanca and Verdelho) to devise a floral bouquet that eases into notes of honeysuckle and lychee fruit, and a finale of citrus and toasty vanilla. Its heavy body and complex layers make it more suitable for a snowy rather than a sunny day. (bighousewines.com)

2008 WillaKenzie Estate Pinot Gris (Willamette Valley, Ore., $21)
The WillaKenzie Estate winery has been certified as sustainable by the state of Oregon, where Pinot Gris is quickly climbing into national recognition. This Pinot Gris has key-lime notes contrasted by an oaky backbone and is zesty without being tropical. (willakenzie.com)

2009 Buty Semillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle (Columbia Valley, Wash., $25)
Combines 65% Semillon, 27% Sauvignon and 8% Muscadelle for an elegant, mineral-rich wine laced with spicy orange notes. If you’ve got a curry dish on deck, then opt for this one, which is a Bordeaux-style white-wine blend. (butywinery.com)

2009 Salneval Albarino (Rias Baixas, Salnes Valley, Spain, $13)
This is an example of a lesser-known white-wine grape in America yet widely beloved in Spain. Amazing effervescence is the hallmark of this particular wine, but you also get grapefruit notes and a dry finish. And, at this price point, it’s a good value too, bringing complexity and depth to the glass.

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DEAL OF THE WEEK
I don’t know about you, but a steaming plate of pasta noodles sounds pretty darn good on a winter day. Head on over to VIA Downer (2625 N. Downer Ave., viadowner.com) on a Monday night and you’ll not only get pasta, but also half-price bottles of wine (normally $22-$57). I took a peek at the wine list to make sure this is a good deal and, rest assured, it is. Naturally, there are many Italian selections, like those from Piemonte, Sicilia and Trentino, given the culinary bent. But New World options are abundant too (such as Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Washington, California’s Sierra Foothills and Australia). There is even a Chablis wine from Burgundy, France, which is pretty rare to find. Live music rounds out the evening, with acts (Chris Hansen Band featuring Glenn Asch and Rae Cassidy on Monday, Feb. 6) plugging in around 7:30 p.m.

WINE EVENT
With Valentine’s Day around the corner I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a spike in sales of dessert wines. Thief Wine’s (thiefwine.com) two locations do the digging for you by procuring a sweet line-up for you to sample, and place orders if a particular Port or, say, late-harvest Riesling, captivates you. Taste the results, a mix of fortified and non-fortified, at “Decadent Dessert Wines,” on Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 6 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. (Milwaukee Public Market, 400 N. Water St.), and Wednesday, Feb. 8 at 6 p.m. or 8 p.m. (Shorewood, 4512 N. Oakland Ave.). The tasting fee is just $20. RSVP is required and you’ll be asked to secure your reservation with a credit card.

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WINE OF THE WEEK
Pinot lovers already know that it’s a needle-in-a-haystack search for a quality domestic Pinot Noir costing under $20. At $12, 2010 Parducci Wine Cellars Small Lot Pinot Noir (Mendocino, Calif.) assimilates the quality of a $30-$40 Pinot Noir. Bright red-cherry notes and a silky, light body make this a good party wine when you don’t want to spend a lot – but refuse to lowball your friends’ palates with sub-par wine. Bonus: the winery runs on 100 percent green power and employs sustainable grape-growing practices.

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